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thrush in pregnancy

Thrush in pregnancy: what you can and can't do

It's normal to experience thrush in pregnancy. This won't harm your unborn baby, but it's important to treat the infection with medicines that are safe to use while pregnant.

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What is thrush?

It's normal for germs to live on the skin around the vagina. One of these germs, a yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans, can cause vaginal thrush - a common and very treatable infection.

Symptoms of thrush include:

  • Itching, irritation and swelling around your vagina.

  • Soreness when you pee.

  • Soreness during sex.

  • A white, odourless cottage cheese-like discharge.

What causes thrush in pregnancy?

Jo Parkinton is a resident midwife at Lansinoh with more than 28 years' experience in the NHS says: "During pregnancy, fluctuations in your hormones can affect the pH balance in the vagina. This can encourage the yeast that causes thrush to grow."

The more candida yeast you have, the more likely you are to develop a thrush infection. Vaginal thrush can sometimes be passed on during sex but is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

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Is thrush common in pregnancy?

Thrush is very common among women - 15 in 20 women develop thrush at least once, while one in 20 women experience repeated infections1. It's even more likely to occur during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester, when the biggest hormonal changes take place. Breastfeeding can also cause mother and baby to develop different types of thrush.

Is thrush dangerous in pregnancy?

According to midwife Jo, thrush is a harmless yeast infection that bears no threat to you or your unborn baby. This is a mild infection that doesn't spread to your womb, nor can it damage your vagina long-term. However, you should treat thrush, and be careful to use the treatments suitable for pregnancy.

Patient picks for Vaginal and vulval problems

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How to treat thrush in pregnancy

Safe treatments during pregnancy

During pregnancy, it's always best to check with your midwife, doctor, or pharmacist before trying any over-the-counter treatments. When it comes to thrush, there are some you need to avoid. Jana Abelovska, superintendent pharmacist at Click Pharmacy, says:

"Effective treatments include clotrimazole - brand name Canesten - in either a cream or a type of tablet called a pessary that is inserted into the vagina."

You can use these safely during pregnancy, but you should always complete the recommended course.

"During pregnancy, women should avoid taking oral thrush treatments that you swallow, such as the antifungal tablet fluconazole, as these can be transmitted through the umbilical cord to your baby," adds Jana. These oral medications have been linked to miscarriages.

Other ways to keep thrush under control

Midwife Jo also shares things you can do to feel more comfortable and help keep thrush under control:

As yeast love a warm, moist environment, you can improve your symptoms by:

  • Reviewing your diet - excess sugar in your diet can make it more difficult to get rid of yeast infections. It's worth keeping a food diary to look for any hidden sugars, for example in packaged foods or yoghurts, and cut these out at the same time as using more topical treatments.

  • Wearing loose clothing - this includes choosing cotton underwear, not wearing tights at all or only for a short time, avoiding synthetic sanitary pads, and staying away from tight or restrictive clothing generally, as this can create a warm environment that is a perfect place for yeast to grow.

  • Changing your underwear daily and washing them in hot water - avoid washing with perfumed products that can irritate the skin.

  • Taking showers instead of baths - avoid perfumed products and use water or soap substitutes to wash.

  • Avoiding vaginal douching and vaginal deodorants.

What happens if thrush is left untreated in pregnancy?

Having thrush during pregnancy is generally nothing to worry about and won't harm your unborn child. However, this infection needs to be treated. Here's why:

  • If you have thrush when your baby is born, you could pass the infection to your baby during the delivery - if you are having a vaginal delivery.

  • The symptoms can be irritating and painful.

Most women will have had thrush and know the symptoms but if you are uncertain about whether you have thrush or not, seek advice from your midwife or doctor first before trying any treatment. If you have tried treatment and it is not getting better, you need to see a doctor as
around one in 10 cases of thrush are caused by other strains of the candida fungus, and these may not be so easily treated. The doctor can also check for other possible causes.

Further reading

  1. The University of Manchester: New figures show 138 million women suffer from recurrent thrush.

Article history

The information on this page is peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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