Yeast infections are the bane of every woman, and especially those who are pregnant.
Pregnancy increases your risk for a vaginal yeast infection, also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis. This type of infection is caused by microscopic fungi in the Candida family, most commonly Candida albicans.
About three out of every four women will have at least one yeast infection in their lifetime and up to 45 percent will get two or more infections, according to an article published in American Family Physician in 2011 (1).
During pregnancy, infections caused by Candida are even more common. A 2009 study published in Canadian Family Physician found that yeast infections affect three out of four women in their lifetimes, and the infection occurs more frequently in pregnant women. Higher estrogen levels and higher glycogen content in vaginal secretions during pregnancy increase a woman’s risk of developing a yeast infection (2).
Similarly, a 2016 study published in Folia Medica reports that yeast is more likely to cause an infection during pregnancy due to hormone fluctuations (3).
Several studies make it clear that the reasons for this increased risk during pregnancy include a shift in the balance of vaginal microorganisms and a high estrogen level in the body. Other factors that can increase a woman’s risk of infection include reduced immune system activity, use of antibiotics, diabetes and an unhygienic lifestyle.
Symptoms of a yeast infection may include itchiness, irritation, soreness, burning, redness and sometimes swelling in your vagina and labia; discomfort or pain during sex; burning sensation during urination; and vaginal odors and discharge.
However, experiencing these symptoms does not always mean that you are have a yeast infection. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have similar symptoms. So, proper diagnosis is vital to a successful treatment plan.
It is important to treat a yeast infection quickly, especially during pregnancy when it might pose additional risks.
A 2015 review article published in Current Infectious Disease Reports states that a vaginal yeast infection during pregnancy might increase the risk for premature labor and delivery as well as low birth weight, oral thrush in the newborn baby, and infection of the membranes and fluid surrounding the baby (4).
Oral antifungal medication is typically not recommended during pregnancy to avoid exposing your baby to the medicine.
To treat the problem, you can use some simple and effective remedies that are generally safe for you and the baby growing inside you. It’s always a good idea to consult your obstetrician to ensure that use of a particular home remedy is appropriate and safe for your individual health status.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for yeast infections during pregnancy.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is acidic in nature, which helps kill the fungus causing the infection. The enzymes in it also prevent the fungus that causes a yeast infection from multiplying or growing.
Plus, apple cider vinegar can regulate your body’s pH balance.
- For external use: Add 1 cup of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to your bathwater. Soak in this bath for 30 minutes. Then, rinse the vaginal area with plain water and allow it to air-dry. Do it once daily.
- For consumption: Add 2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a glass of water. If you wish, add lemon juice and sweeten it with a little honey. Mix it well. Drink this twice a day for a few days.
Garlic is one of nature’s gifts to fight yeast infections.
It helps destroy Candida and inhibits its growth, thus helping fight the root of the problem. The organosulfur constituents like ajoene present in garlic have the ability to inhibit certain Candida species.
It also helps stimulate the immune system.
- Eat 2 or 3 cloves of raw garlic daily. If you do not like the taste of raw garlic, you can mince the cloves and eat it along with yogurt.
- Another option is to take garlic in the form of supplements or powder. Supplements should be taken only after consulting your physician.
Yogurt is a good remedy for treating yeast infections in pregnant women. Probiotic yogurt contains acidophilus and live cultures that stimulate the growth of good bacteria, which in turn helps fight yeast and other microbes.
Also, yogurt helps improve your digestive health and enhances your immune system functioning.
- Eat 2 to 3 cups of plain, unsweetened yogurt daily. Flavored or sweetened yogurt will introduce additional sugar into your vagina, which will only increase the amount of yeast.
4. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is another very effective remedy to treat a yeast infection, due to its antifungal properties.
The lauric acid and caprylic acid in it are responsible for its antimicrobial properties. It can kill the yeast when taken orally in small amounts and also when applied topically.
- For topical use: Apply extra-virgin coconut oil on the affected area, 2 or 3 times a day. You can rinse it off after 30 minutes.
- For consumption: Simply have 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin coconut oil by adding it to your hot milk or soup.
You can eat 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of coconut oil a day to reap its health benefits.
5. Indian Lilac
Indian lilac, also known as neem, is a great remedy to fight a yeast infection during pregnancy.
The constituent compounds nimbidol and edunin in neem have antifungal effects. It also boosts the body’s immune system to help combat Candida fungi.
Plus, it will reduce itching and other discomforts.
- Boil 1 cup of neem leaves in 3 cups of filtered water. Strain and allow the solution to cool. Use the water to rinse your vagina daily.
- Alternatively, mix a few drops of neem oil in a bowl of lukewarm water and use it to wash your vagina, 2 or 3 times a day.
Cranberries are known to be a very effective remedy for yeast infections. These small berries contain a compound called arbutin that helps kill Candida albicans.
- Drink a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice 2 or 3 times a day for a few weeks to clear out Candida yeast.
- Alternatively, mix together equal amounts of unsweetened cranberry juice and apple juice. Drink it once or twice daily.
- If you wish to take cranberry pills or capsules, consult your doctor first.
7. Fermented Foods
Including more fermented foods in your diet can also help treat a yeast infection during pregnancy.
Fermented foods like sourdough, kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut are full of healthy probiotics (such as lactobacilli) that help kill the yeast and keep it from growing out of control.
Such foods also increase the population of beneficial microbes. They also increase the availability of nutrients in the body.
8. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera contains vitamins, enzymes and amino acids that help inhibit the growth of Candida that causes yeast infections. It also has anti-inflammatory, anti-irritating and antifungal properties that help control the symptoms.
- For topical use: Extract the gel from an aloe vera leaf and apply it on your vagina. Leave it on for 10 minutes, then rinse the area with water and allow it to air-dry. Do it 2 or 3 times a day.
- For consumption: Prepare aloe vera juice by blending together 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel and 1 cup of orange juice or just plain water. Drink this aloe vera juice once daily for 1 week. Do not drink aloe vera juice in excess, as it may cause gastrointestinal discomfort.
9. Reduce Sugar Intake
When it comes to yeast infections, high sugar intake can worsen the symptoms. This happens as sugar supports the growth of yeast in the vagina. Thus, cutting down on sugary foods can help control and treat yeast infections.
During pregnancy, some women may have more cravings for sugary foods and avoiding such foods can be problematic. But for your benefit, you need to avoid or reduce the intake of sugary foods.
Avoid soda, candy bars, chocolates, ice cream, pastries and cookies. Also, cut out hidden sugars present in sugary sauces, salad dressings, barbecue sauces, etc.
If you crave something sweet, switch to fruit or drink tea or fresh fruit juices.
At the same time, keep yourself hydrated by drinking an ample amount of water, so that you urinate frequently. Frequent urination will help get any excess sugar out of your system as soon as possible.
10. Maintain Good Hygiene
Good hygiene can play a key role in preventing and treating a vaginal yeast infection during pregnancy.
- Clean your genital area gently with warm water every day.
- Always wipe from front to back after using the restroom.
- Do not douche, as it can make the symptoms worse.
- Avoid using bubble baths, perfumed soaps, scented laundry detergent or feminine hygiene sprays. Avoid using colored or perfumed toilet paper.
- Get out of your wet bathing suit promptly after swimming and take a shower immediately.
- Change your underwear after exercising if you break a sweat.
- Do not wash your vagina with soap, as the alcohol and toxic chemicals in soap can cause an imbalance in the pH level of the vaginal region.
- Get plenty of rest to make it easier for your body to fight infections.
- Try sleeping without underwear at night to allow air to get to your genital area.
- Wear breathable cotton underwear and avoid pantyhose and tight pants, especially synthetic ones.
- Aim for loose-fitting pants or skirts during the daytime.
- No matter how irritating it sounds, it’s important to never hold in your urine.
- Vaginitis: Diagnosis and Treatment. American Family Physician. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2011/0401/p807.html. Published April 01, 2011.
- Vaginal yeast infections during pregnancy. Canadian Family Physician. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2654841. Published March 2009.
- Vulvovaginal Candidiasis in Pregnant Women and its Importance for Candida Colonization of Newborns. Folia Medica. https://www.degruyter.com/downloadpdf/j/folmed.2016.58.issue-2/folmed-2016-0018/folmed-2016-0018.pdf.
- Vulvovaginal candidiasis in pregnancy. Current Infectious Disease Reports. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25916994. Published June 2015.