If you are pregnant and have a yeast infection, put down the cake! I repeat, PUT DOWN THE CAKE! If you want to learn how too much sugar (and a lack of probiotics) creates a breeding ground for yeast infections during pregnancy, check out my blog Why Pregnant Women are More Prone to Yeast Infections. But if you’re just “itching” for a cure, read on.
After five pregnancies and plenty of yeast infections, I think I’ve finally figured out how to get rid of yeast infections while pregnant. Getting a yeast infection while pregnant is the worst because it can be painful, bothersome, and really hard to get rid of. In addition, it can lead to thrush in both you and your new baby after birth, and dealing with thrush makes having a yeast infection while pregnant seem like a walk in the park. So you really really really want to make sure your yeast infection is gone by the time you give birth.
How to Know if You Have a Yeast Infection
It’s recommended that the first time you have a yeast infection, you go to the doctor to have it properly diagnosed, but once you’ve gotten them a few times, you’ll just know. Here are the things to look for.
- Pain or burning during urination or sex
- Possibly a thick, clumpy, white discharge that has no odor and looks like cottage cheese
Bacterial vaginosis (and some sexually transmitted diseases) can have many of the same symptoms, but the bacterial vaginosis discharge will have a “fishy” odor to it. They say you’ll need antibiotics to cure it, but if you take antibiotics, it will wipe out all of your bacteria (both good and bad), and it will make your chances of getting a yeast infection EVEN WORSE. I can only imagine that going from bacterial vaginosis to a yeast infection would be no fun!
When to Try Natural Remedies
Whenever I’m pregnant, I can feel my body changing in many ways, and with each subsequent pregnancy (currently rocking #5 as I update this blog), I can feel my candida issues flare up again. I know this is because of the way my body processes sugar and other things (read more about WHY pregnant women are more prone to yeast infections here), and it’s never any fun to deal with.
I always start with all of the natural remedies first when I feel the faintest itch of a yeast infection tingling, and by doing so, I am often able to keep things at bay…but once my symptoms turn into a full blown yeast infection, then the natural remedies actually seem to make things worse.
When you think about how candida albicans works, you have to understand that first of all it is a natural part of our digestive system living in our colon helping us ferment our undigested food (i.e. prebiotics…read more about the fascinating world of digestion here), and second of all, during pregnancy it can very easily grow out of control. It is a living organism and will fight to survive, hence the reason why it grows stronger and more resilient when you start to battle it. But stay strong sister, and you can win this war!
1. Over the Counter Anti-Fungal Medication
So, if I’ve tried all of the natural preventative measures and things still progress to a full blown yeast infection, I’ll run out to the drug store and shell out the $15 for the cheapest 3 or 7-day anti-fungal treatment. Now, don’t make the same mistake that I did with my first pregnancy and get the one day treatment. You are too sensitive while pregnant to handle such intensity, and it will burn like the dickens!
Most over the counter brands will list clotrimazole or miconazole as the active ingredient. The miconazole is more specifically designed to kill fungus in the vagina and the clotrimazole is typically used for skin fungus, so I would go with that miconazole first. (This is my favorite 3-day treatment.) Then, insert the capsules/cream every day for the full amount of recommended time. Even if your symptoms go away, keep going the full three or seven days or else the fungus will come back even stronger!
Now, it’s important to note that this remedy only treats the symptoms, not the cause. So, if you were to use ONLY this treatment, it is very likely that the underlying reasons that caused the yeast infection to appear in the first place will still be in place and cause yet another yeast infection.
I recently attended a nutrition class for pregnant women and learned that chamomile is actually very good at killing candida overgrowth! It is also super safe for pregnant women and has a calming effect as well. You can drink chamomile tea or even take chamomile supplements. You might want to start here before using the over the counter medication as well.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
This is what I did during my fourth pregnancy that helped me to FINALLY get rid of my chronic and ongoing yeast infection! All of the other tips certainly help as well, but this was truly the nail in the coffin. Apple cider vinegar is an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral miracle worker. It acts like a sponge and draws out germs and toxins from the surrounding tissue. It also stimulates acetolysis in which toxic wastes (like candida) are broken down and rendered harmless.
To make an apple cider vinegar rinse, take a peri bottle and fill it with about 2 T. of apple cider vinegar and the rest filtered water (chlorine free), and put it near your toilet. After you wipe (always front to back), squirt the solution on the outside of your vagina and let it air dry. (Stand in front of a fan for extra relief!) I would also do this after getting out of the shower. I continued to do this for at least a week or two after my symptoms were gone to make sure the infection was really eliminated, and this was REALLY helpful!
You can actually squirt it inside the vagina or douche with it if you want, but I would wait until the irritation is gone, however, or else it will really burn. You can also make the solution a little stronger if you’re brave enough, but if it’s too strong, it will burn even if you’re not irritated at the time.
Garlic is one of nature’s greatest infection fighters. Not only does it help to stimulate the immune system, but it destroys candida (among other pathogens) and inhibits its growth.
At the first signs of a yeast infection, you can take a peeled clove of garlic and insert it into your vagina, usually at night, and then take it out the next morning. If the yeast infection is in the early stages, you might be able to kill it off this way after one or two nights. I have heard stories of this working for others, but it has just never worked very well for me…plus I don’t like how it makes my entire body smell like garlic.
I prefer instead to take these garlic supplements instead. They provide all of the benefits of garlic without giving you garlic breath! Whenever you use any natural method, you want to mix things up a bit so that the yeast doesn’t become resistant to your treatments, so I’ll typically take these garlic supplements for a few days (in the morning, 20 minutes or so after eating some food), give it a break for a few more days while using something else, and then use them again until my symptoms are gone.
5. Eat Fermented Foods
Fermented foods such as anything like sourdough, kombucha, yogurt, keifer, and sauerkraut are full of healthy probiotics (such as lactobacilli) that help to crowd out the yeast and keep it from growing out of control. I always try to eat as many of these foods as I can anyways, but especially so when I’m pregnant. I always have a jar of sourdough starter on my counter, and when I feel the mere tinglings of a yeast infection, or just as a preventative measure, I like to eat a small spoonful of the starter first thing in the morning (after a bit of food would probably be better, but I never remember that!). Recently, I had a friend make me some lacto-fermented sauerkraut, and I’ve really been enjoying that as well.
When you’re trying to get rid of a yeast infection, it’s really a balanced approach between killing the fungus and then crowding it out with good bacteria. Fermented foods are an excellent way to populate your vagina (along with your gastrointestinal tract) with good bacteria.
If you have good gut health, it’s also important to include plenty of prebiotic foods so that the probiotics will have something to feed on. Prebiotics are different kinds of fiber that we can’t digest, but that encourage beneficial species of gut flora to grow. They include dandelion greens, garlic and onions, asparagus, and chicory (found in teccino, a wonderful coffee substitute). If you have poor gut health, however, these prebiotic foods may cause stomach pains, gas, and bloating.
6. Probiotic Supplements
While fermented foods are great, sometimes you just need an extra boost, especially if you’ve recently taken a course of antibiotics that have wiped out not only the bad bacteria, but the good as well, and you need to repopulate your gut.
I have taken many different types of probiotic treatments, and these two have been my favorite. Bio Kult Candea is specifically designed to deal with candida. It has a garlic component that makes it have a bit of an odor, but it really works. Custom Probiotics come very highly recommended and work very well for eliminating yeast infections. When I have felt a yeast infection coming on, I like to alternate between these two brands and take two every morning after eating a bit of food. I have tried other probiotic supplements (such as the ones you’ll find in the grocery store) in the past and didn’t really notice much of a difference, but with these brands (and by following these other steps), my yeast infection would go away and not keep reoccurring.
*Note: With my fifth pregnancy, I added a probiotic to daily vitamin routine, and it was really helpful with preventing yeast infections.
7. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has capric acid, caprylic acid, and lauric acid that are all medium chain fatty acids that have great anti-fungal properties. Dr. Bruce Fife, a naturopathic physician and certified nutritionist and president of the Coconut Research Center in Colorado Springs, CO, explains that,
“Medium chain fatty acids penetrate cell membranes….when they’re absorbed by an organism that is not beneficial, they penetrate the cell membrane and weaken the cell, so it just disintegrates. Then white blood cells go in and gobble up the waste material.”
I love using as much coconut oil in my cooking as possible to help prevent and treat yeast infections, but you could also put a spoonful in your tea every morning, just batten down the hatches and eat a spoonful straight up, or you can take a caprylic acid capsule. Whenever I feel a yeast infection starting, I pop a few of these every morning.
8. Eliminate Sugar
Ok, so I’m hiding this one towards the end, because it sucks, but it is really THE most important step. If you are pregnant, past your 23rd week, and battling a yeast infection, you absolutely have to give up sugar (which is basically in all processed foods) to help get rid of your yeast infection for good. You can read my blog: The Real Reason Why Pregnant Women Get Yeast Infections to learn more about the science of why this is, but basically, your hormones are causing your blood sugar to sky rocket which creates an optimal breeding ground for candida. In order to really get rid of the candida, you have to reduce its food source…sugar.
Now, I’m not talking about complex carbohydrates here…you need those to fuel your body and your growing baby. I’m talking about pure sugar…Little Debbies, Laffy Taffy, Oreos, white bread, etc.
I think it’s best to eliminate sugar cold turkey. You might feel miserable at first because as the candida dies, it tries to fight it and you get these nasty die off symptoms (head aches, brain fog, fatigue), but they’ll go away after a short time, and then you will feel better than ever. When I’ve gone on a candida cleanse, this website has been really helpful in providing dietary guidelines.
Just beware that if you ever cut out ALL carbohydrates to try to completely starve the candida, it will turn into its most virulent form that can reek even more havoc on your body. You’re not trying to completely eliminate the yeast, just keep it under control.
9. Take Care of Yourself
If you’re like me, the first trimester tiredness is just brutal, and as you enter the 2nd trimester, you might take for granted how good you feel and start to get a bit lax on the sleep. But by taking care of your body by first of all getting PLENTY of rest, your body’s immune system can work in its optimal state to help you fend off pathogens like candida. Next, it’s important to fill yourself with nutrient dense food and avoid commercial processed crap as much as you can. You are growing a human being and you need to eat…and eat well! Don’t wait until you’re starving and eat an entire box of Oreos! Plan out those meals in advance (check out my favorite recipes here), and feed yourself…and your growing baby some good food!
If you’re feeling a bit under the weather, these Pure Radiance 100% natural vitamin C capsules are AMAZING! I also like taking this Organic Liquid Prenatal Formula (I hate swallowing big bulky prenatal pills!) and this Fermented Cod Liver Oil (or this if our budget is a little tight).
10. Let Your Vagina Breathe
Candida thrives in warm wet areas where there is no oxygen, and so in order to prevent candida from growing out of control, you want to let your vagina breathe. You can do this by wearing cotton panties like these, which are very comfortable while you’re pregnant anyways!
A big mistake I made while pregnant was wearing panty liners every day for any accidents (Watch yourself when you sneeze, you will pee a little bit!) and/or leakage, but I really think this contributed to my yeast infection problem. A better option would have been something like this or just changing my underwear more often. You’ll also want to avoid wearing super tight skinny jeans, and instead opt for something more comfortable like these. And of course, don’t sit around all day with a wet bathing suit on.
- Gentian Violet: When I was researching Gentian Violet for my oral thrush article, I came across a comment from a verified purchase on Amazon where the woman soaked tampons in Gentian Violet and inserted them for seven days and totally healed her chronic yeast infections. Gentian Violet worked wonders getting rid of my baby’s oral thrush, so I would have to say that this sounds like a pretty good idea if you’re desperate for a cure.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: I have heard a lot of positive information lately about using a hydrogen peroxide rinse to get rid of yeast infections. This makes sense since when the lactobacilli in a healthy vagina “feed” on glycogen, one of their byproducts is actually hydrogen peroxide. But when I’ve tried this remedy, I’ve found that it has no effect.
Remedies to Avoid While Pregnant
- *Grapefruit Seed Extract: Grapefruit seed extract can be taken orally or applied topically, and in addition to killing yeast, it has vitamin A, E, and bioflavanoids. But it’s not technically recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women because it can be toxic if taken at 4,000 times the suggested dose (so I think it’s okay to use at the recommended dosage). I tried it when I was battling thrush with my little newborn baby, it only sort of worked, and it seemed to bother her, so I’m not sure about this one.
- *Boric Acid: The link above also mentions putting some boric acid into a hydrogen peroxide douche, and while boric acid is good at treating persistent and recurring yeast infections where you may be battling a different strain of candida, it is not recommended for pregnant women.
- *Oregano Capsules: Oregano oil is really great at preventing and treating yeast infections because it contains two very effective antimicrobial agents called carvacrol and thymol that react with the water in your bloodstream to dehydrate and kill the Candida yeast cells. Unfortunately, it increases the blood flow to the uterus which weakens the lining around the fetus, so you don’t want to take it while you’re pregnant.
- *Oral Fluconazole: Fluconazole (or the brand name Diflucan) are both oral antifungal medications. They are processed by the liver and enter the bloodstream where they attack the fungus. but this is very hard on your liver, and if you’re pregnant, it can harm the fetus. Also, if you are taking oral birth control, it can make it less effective. (But geez louise, I hope you’re not taking birth control when you’re pregnant!) The oral medications are recommended for women that have been battling an ongoing yeast infection for a year or more.
Treating any type of candida overgrowth is really a three step process.
- Kill the Fungus/Control the Overgrowth – You can never completely get rid of it because it’s a part of the digestive process, but you can control the overgrowth.
- Probiotics – Candida and probiotics both feed on the same thing…sugar, so make sure you have more probiotics in your gut rather than candida.
- Diet – Eliminate processed foods and sugar and instead opt for as much nutrient dense food as you can.
Treating a yeast infection while pregnant can be a very stressful and frustrating thing when you feel like no matter what you do, you can’t really get rid of it. It’s not something to be taken lightly, however, because if a baby is born vaginally when the mother has a yeast infection, it can pass the candida on to the baby, which may turn into thrush. Thrush can make breastfeeding both difficult and painful, and it is even harder to get rid of than a yeast infection during pregnancy. Read by blog: How to Identify and Deal with Oral Thrush in Babies for more information about this topic.
So, do whatever you can to completely eliminate your yeast infection during pregnancy by following the steps that make sense to you and your situation. Good Luck!