Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook
Print this pageEMail this page

Pregnancy

Yeast Infections Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is a yeast infection?
  2. What are the symptoms?
  3. How can it be treated?
  4. What puts me at risk for yeast infections and how can I prevent them?
  5. Can it be transmitted through sexual contact?
  6. What if I have a yeast infection and I am pregnant?

What is a yeast infection?

Vaginal yeast infections are sometimes referred to as Vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) or candidal vaginitis. They are a common and treatable problem among women. Yeast are a normal fungus found throughout the body--commonly in the intestines and mouth, but also in the air. A change in the vaginal environment (such as acidity) can cause a yeast infection.
  Yeast are a normal fungus found throughout the body--commonly in the intestines and mouth, but also in the air. A change in the vaginal environment (such as acidity) can cause a yeast infection.

The bacteria normally found in the vagina usually keep this from occurring, but when changes brought about by pregnancy, menstruation, diabetes, or antibiotics occur, too many yeast cells may grow in the vagina. This can cause itching and irritation in the vagina. Approximately 75% of all women will experience at least one yeast infection during their lifetime.

What are the symptoms?

The most frequent symptoms in women are itching, burning, and irritation of the vagina. Painful urination and/or intercourse are common. Abnormal vaginal discharge is not always present and may be minimal. The discharge is usually white, and cottage-cheese-like in nature, although it may vary from watery to thick. A red rash may also be present on the vulva or inner thighs. The symptoms of a yeast infection can be similar to other types of vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis.
  The most frequent symptoms in women are itching, burning, and irritation of the vagina. Painful urination and/or intercourse are common. Abnormal vaginal discharge is not always present and may be minimal.

You may want to see your health care provider to make sure what you have is a yeast infection. If you are experiencing frequent recurrences, you should also see your physician. This is to make sure that a yeast infection is truly the cause.

How can it be treated?

If you have had a yeast infection before, and are familiar with its symptoms, there are many over-the-counter vaginal creams (such as Monistat 7 and many generic brands) you can use to successfully treat it. These anti-fungal medications usually come in a cream or suppository form, and must be applied vaginally for 2 to 7 days.
  [T]here are many over-the-counter vaginal creams. There is also a medication that comes in a pill form, but you must have a prescription from a physician to get it.

There is also a medication that comes in a pill form, but you must have a prescription from a physician to get it. The medication Diflucan (fluconazole), given at a dose of 150mg one time will provide relief of vaginal yeast infections in 2-3 days. All treatments, whether in pill or cream form, appear to be equally effective. However, creams can provide relief for vaginal itching and irritation. Chronic (reoccurring) infections may require more long-term treatment (up to 6 months). Diabetes should be ruled out in women with frequent yeast infections.

What puts me at risk for yeast infections and how can I prevent them?

Several factors are linked to increased rates of yeast infections in women, including pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes, and the use of birth control pills or antibiotics. After a course of antibiotics it may take weeks for the vagina to grow back the population of bacteria necessary to keep yeast under control. Other factors that may put you at risk include the use of douches, perfumed feminine hygiene sprays, and tight, poorly ventilated clothing and underwear. So far, there is little scientific evidence to show that a change in diet can impact the treatment of recurrent infections, although diets high in sugar may promote yeast growth and one study demonstrated that daily consumption of yogurt helped reduce recurrence of yeast overgrowth.

Can it be transmitted through sexual contact?

There is no direct evidence that yeast infections can be transmitted through sexual intercourse. However, it is possible that some women may have repeat infections because her partner carries the organism on his penis/in her vagina. It isn't necessary for your partner to be treated for a yeast infection just because you have one, unless your partner is also experiencing symptoms.

What if I have a yeast infection and I am pregnant?

It is safe for you to treat a yeast infection with the topical antifungal medications discussed above, but not Diflucan. However, as is true with most drugs, the effect of antifungals on pregnancy has not been studied in detail. Most OB/Gyn's recommend treatment for symptomatic infections. Yeast infections pose no threat to the fetus or newborn.

For more information:

Go to the Pregnancy health topic, where you can:

Last Reviewed: Apr 26, 2006

Margery   Gass, MD Margery Gass, MD
Formely, Professor, Clinical Obstetrics & Gynecology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati