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Yeast Infections and Pregnancy

Feb 18, 2022 | 2 minutes Read

Vaginal yeast infections are a common minor complication during pregnancy. Most women have had at least one episode of vaginal yeast in their lives long before they are pregnant. Yeast is also known other names including vaginal candidiasis, moniliasis, or simply yeast. It is more common in pregnancy than at any other time. However, there is no evidence that yeast in pregnancy is harmful to the developing baby.

The surge of hormones, alterations in the vaginal pH, change in  diet  and general metabolic changes means that yeast infections are diagnosed more in pregnant women.

Most women are familiar with the symptoms of vaginal yeast and they are motivated to seek treatment quickly. Alternative treatment options may be necessary if you find it does not clear up with conventional treatment.

Women who have yeast infections four or more times in a year are said to have recurrent yeast.

What causes vaginal yeast?

A yeast organism is responsible for causing this type of vaginitis, known as candida albicans. Candida is a simple, one-celled organism which is easy to get and not so easy to clear up. Most women have yeast cells lying dormant on their skin and within their vagina. These are kept in check by good bacteria. If the conditions are right, such as being run down, pregnant or taking antibiotics, this can cause the healthy numbers of candida cells to multiply and develop into a full-blown yeast infection.

Once you've had a yeast infection, it can lie dormant in your body, just waiting for the right conditions to flare up again. During pregnancy, the pH of the vagina becomes more alkaline and less acidic. Essentially, it becomes sugary and the glycogen in the vaginal cells becomes a food source for the yeast. This is why women who have uncontrolled diabetes tend to have more yeast infections.

An increased vaginal discharge often occurs during pregnancy, leading to a permanently moist environment. Yeast thrives in warm, moist conditions and the vagina is a perfect environment for it to multiply. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, in particular a high level of estrogen, also contribute.

Women who have a weakened immune system, who are taking steroid medication, or who are undergoing chemotherapy can also be at a greater risk of getting vaginal yeast.

What are the symptoms of vaginal yeast?

  • A vaginal discharge which is white and has a cottage cheese like consistency.
  • ntense vaginal itching, which makes it hard to concentrate on anything else.
  • Vaginal soreness and irritation.
  • Pain and burning when urinating, especially if there is swelling of the vaginal tissues and labia.

Will yeast harm my baby?

There is no evidence which suggests that yeast will harm an unborn baby. But if a mother has yeast when she gives birth, the baby can get it as well. Babies who develop yeast have white plaques or patches in their mouth and sometimes diaper rash. They can also contract yeast if they are  breastfeeding  and their mother has yeast on her nipples.

Will having yeast mean I can’t get pregnant?

No, yeast does not affect fertility or increase your chances of having pregnancy complications. It is limited to the mucosal areas of the vagina and the surrounding skin.

Will vaginal yeast harm my baby?

No, yeast will not harm your baby. Occasionally, babies can develop oral yeast if they are born vaginally and their mother has a yeast infection at the time of birth. Babies can also develop a diaper rash which is caused by yeast. Both conditions are treatable and respond very quickly to specific creams and drops.

Yeast does not migrate up into the uterus and it is generally restricted to the vaginal and surrounding tissues.

Things to remember

Having vaginal yeast is not a sign of poor hygiene or being unclean. It is an incredibly common condition, which, once recognized, is easily treated and managed. Speak with your maternity care provider and or pharmacist about treatments. Anti-fungal creams and vaginal suppositories are the most common treatment options. Your partner may need to be treated as well. Reinfection between sexual partners is common.

The information of this article has been reviewed by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.