In this comprehensive writeup, we’ll base our discussion on yeast infections during pregnancy. Most women will agree that the process of bringing forth a new life into this world through pregnancy is one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences in a woman’s life. Unfortunately, though, it is during this time of pregnancy that a woman is most likely to suffer from yeast infections and other difficult complications which usually make pregnancy a very uncomfortable experience.
To make matters worse, the symptoms of yeast infections usually become more aggravated during the third trimester of pregnancy, when the woman has enough troubles to deal with as it is. However, it is comforting to know that yeast infections during pregnancy are treatable and usually pose no harmful effects to the mother or child.
What causes yeast infections during pregnancy?
A pregnant woman is much more likely to contract a yeast infection than a woman who is not expectant. We must therefore be wondering what exactly causes this phenomenon to occur.
During pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester, there is an increase in hormone levels, specifically estrogen, which causes the vagina to produce more glycogen, a type of sugar in which the yeasts thrive in. As a result of the increased sugar levels in the vagina, the yeasts multiply rapidly leading to a yeast infection.
What are the symptoms of yeast infection during pregnancy?
It is important for a pregnant woman to know the symptoms of yeast infections, so that if she notices them, she may seek medical attention. These symptoms are similar to those experienced by a non-pregnant woman. They include:
i- A thick, whitish/yellowish cottage cheese-like discharge is produced.
ii- A burning sensation during urination is felt.
iii- Vaginal itching.
iv- A yeast-like odor is produced.
v- Swelling and redness of vulva.
vi- Vaginal dryness and rashes.
Are there any risks of yeast infections during pregnancy?
Usually, yeast infections during pregnancy can be treated easily and do not bring about any detrimental effects to the mother or child. However, this only applies when the condition is detected and treated early. When a yeast infection is ignored for a long time it can have potentially injurious effects to both the mother and child. Some of these effects include:
i- The woman may develop a urinary tract infection
ii- If the infection is severe, the woman may develop a pelvic inflammatory disease which can lead to infertility
iii- It can cause premature birth of the baby
iv- The fetus may be aborted in very severe cases
v- The unborn baby may get an oral yeast infection from the mother.
vi- In rare cases, the child may get a serious skin yeast infection known as congenital cutaneous candidiasis which presents itself within the first 6 days after birth. This condition is characterized by a lot of swellings on the skin.
Is there any treatment for yeast infections during pregnancy?
As stated earlier yeast infections are easily treatable and need not cause much distress the woman concerned. Once the symptoms described above appear, it is important for the pregnant woman to consult a physician. There are two categories of treatments available for yeast infections:
Natural treatment/Home remedies
Natural remedies are usually safe for both the mother and the baby and have few side effects. A caution here is that you must first seek the go ahead from your doctor before using these home remedies as some can have detrimental effects if used inappropriately. Examples of home remedies for yeast infection include:
• Tea tree oil
• The yeast infection diet
There are various types of prescription medicines as well as Over the Counter (OTC) drugs available for treatment of yeast infections. However, it is still crucial to see a doctor to know what is best for you.
Often, doctors will prescribe anti-fungal vaginal creams or suppositories to treat yeast infections. These may contain either nystatin or clotrimazole, the latter being more effective. Most of these treatments are thought to be safe, but most contain a chemical known as boric acid which may have harmful effects to the body.
NOTE: Oral medications like Diflucan are usually not prescribed because they may cause harm to the unborn baby.
What can I do to prevent yeast infections during pregnancy?
Inasmuch as yeast infections during pregnancy result from hormonal imbalances which we have little control over, there are certain habits that we should practice to reduce the chances of a yeast infection. Some of these include:
i- Avoid use of scented tampons and sanitary pads, scented toilet paper, certain anti bacterial soaps, some bleaching agents and fabric softeners as well as feminine deodorant sprays. These items may contain chemicals which kill the essential bacteria in the vagina.
ii- Avoid wearing of tight, non cotton or wet clothes as they trap heat and moisture and thus encourage yeast infections.
iii- Eat foods rich in Vitamin C to boost the body’s immune system.
iv- Have plenty of rest, at least 8 hours a night to make the body more able to combat yeast infections.
v- Go to the doctor for regular checkups during pregnancy.
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