During pregnancy, the body undergoes a long list of changes. Some of these changes might not result in any feelings of uneasiness or discomfort, but some negative changes can make you feel extremely uncomfortable. As the body experiences so many changes in the hormone levels during pregnancy, it can sometimes result in an imbalance in the normal PH of the vagina. As a result, you might experience a yeast infection, which is most common during pregnancy. 

A yeast infection causes severe itching of the vagina and abnormal vaginal discharge that looks very thick in texture, just like cottage cheese. 

Vaginal itching is probably the worst to deal with during pregnancy as you have to constantly fight the urge to scratch yourself, which makes leading a normal day to day life difficult.

What is a Yeast infection?

Yeast is usually a type of fungus. Yeast infections are caused by many types of fungi like Candida albicans, Candida tropicalis, Candida glabrata, etc. As per the American Family Physician, yeast infections are fairly common, and 1 in 4 women will suffer from it at some point in their lives. The risk of getting infected by Candida is usually 20 percent, which increases to 30 percent during pregnancy. So it can be said that a yeast infection is very common in those that are pregnant. 

Generally, the vagina has an acidic environment that does not let yeast or any other pathogens grow in it, however when the acidity level drops, that is when the real problem starts. The normal PH level of the vagina is from 3.8 to 4.5. A lot of factors like: can cause disturbances in the normal PH level of the vagina

  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Douching
  • Menopause
  • If menstrual blood is present
  • If semen antibiotics are present
  • Urinary Tract Infections or UTIs

What are its symptoms?

The most common symptom of a yeast infection in most cases is the itching of the vulva and the vagina. Along with that, women may also experience a white-colored discharge, which is odorless and looks like cottage cheese in texture. Some other symptoms of a yeast infection are:

  • pain or soreness in the vulva or the vagina
  • a burning sensation while peeing
  • a rash that appears in and around the vulva, which can spread to other areas like the thighs and the groin.

These signs can take from a few hours or even weeks to subside. 

In newly born babies and those women that have a weak immune system, the yeast infection might occur in the mouth area. This is referred to as thrush.

However, if you are experiencing these symptoms, it does not always mean that you are suffering from a yeast infection as some other conditions also come with the same types of signs and symptoms like:

  • an allergic reaction to a type of soap that you have used to clean your genitals or a birth control method such as a condom.
  • a sexually transmitted disease like gonorrhea and chlamydia
  • Or it can be due to bacterial vaginosis, which is a type of infection of the vagina. 

How is a yeast infection diagnosed?

A yeast infection is diagnosed via a physical exam done by a doctor. Additionally, the doctor can also take a swab sample from the vagina to look for yeast growth signs. In some cases, the doctor can also grow the vaginal sample in the lab, which is then examined under a microscope to help them see which type of the fungus is responsible for the patient’s condition.

 Why do yeast infections affect women mostly during pregnancy?

Most of the time, yeast infections have been seen to affect mostly women who are pregnant rather than those who are not. It affects pregnant women during their second trimester of pregnancy. The reason behind this is that during pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes a lot of changes, and there are imbalances in the hormonal levels that disrupt the PH balance of the vagina, making it less acidic, which can then make it possible for yeast to grow in it. 

As per the National Center for Biotechnology Information, vaginal fluids that contain higher levels of the female hormone estrogen and glycogen make it possible for the yeast to grow more easily in the vagina. The vaginal fluid that consists of high levels of glycogen points towards the increased level of sugar in it, which serves as food for the yeast and this again helps them to proliferate more rapidly.

What is the safest way to deal with a yeast infection during pregnancy?

To treat a yeast infection, pregnant women should refrain from oral treatment methods and instead make use of creams, ointments, and other topically used medicines. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during pregnancy, women should use azole topically for seven consecutive days to treat a yeast infection. This method has been accepted as safe by the CDC. 

Topically used azole are available over the counter without any need for a doctor’s prescription letter, and studies regarding their efficacy also back them. According to the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s one study, a milder version of corticosteroids can be applied topically to relieve the symptoms of a yeast infection. They are considered safe to use while pregnant; however, they need to be used only for a short period. 

As per one study published in the American Medical Association’s medical journal JAMA network, on the other hand, the use of the prescribed medicine oral Fluconazole is to be avoided by pregnant women as it has been seen to cause spontaneous abortion in those who were exposed to it. The study talked about how pregnant women that took Fluconazole were 48 percent more likely to face pregnancy-related complications like a miscarriage than those who did not take it. 

Before taking any type of treatment, it is always a good idea to consult a doctor; treating a yeast infection is important. If it is left untreated, it can even be transmitted to the baby through the mother during the delivery process. This is known as thrush. 

Are there any home remedies for a yeast infection?

There are a few methods that you can use to relieve the symptoms of a yeast infection with the help of home remedies like:

  • Pure and unprocessed honey

The topical use of honey since it contains very high sugar levels can stop the fungus’ growth. Honey, when applied topically, can lower the PH of the vagina, which causes the growth of the fungus to drop dramatically. You can also add some herbs with antifungal properties like eucalyptus, lemongrass, geranium, etc. to the honey, making an even more potent solution that can effectively fight the fungus.

Honey should only be used in a topical manner as eating honey might aggravate the situation as the sugar content of the honey gets diluted in the stomach, which can become a source of nutrition for the fungus to feed and live on. 

  • Coconut oil

Another highly effective home remedy for a yeast infection is the topical use of coconut oil. It contains antifungal properties, which helps in killing Candida. One strain of the Candida albicans is seen to be susceptible to coconut oil, which is highly concentrated. Just a small amount of coconut oil is sufficient to get rid of it compared to Fluconazole.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is a miracle product that has been used to treat scores of disorders like acid reflux, bad cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, etc., and it can also be used to treat a yeast infection. A relaxing apple cider vinegar bath can provide great relief for those that are suffering from a yeast infection. Apple cider vinegar consists of antimicrobial properties, which can even be highly effective against yeast. You should either use apple cider vinegar in a bath or drink some amount of it mixed in a glass of water daily to see positive results.

How can a yeast infection be prevented?

Prevention is always better than cure. It is best to prevent the infection from happening in the first place rather than to cure the damage done by it. To prevent a yeast infection from happening, you should try to consume food that is rich in probiotics, or taking a supplement with cranberry in it might be of great help as well. Other than these, some other preventive measures are:

  • avoiding very tight clothes
  • saying yes to underwear made of pure cotton
  • after a shower or a bath one should dry themselves thoroughly
  • wet swimsuits should not be worn for too long
  • avoid using scented products to clean your vagina 
  • avoid douching
  • must take foods that contain probiotics like yogurt, sauerkraut, etc
  • steer clear of high levels of sugar in your diet