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Vaginal Thrush During Pregnancy
Thrush is unfortunately more common when you’re pregnant, leaving many pregnant women wondering how to get rid of it as soon and as safely as possible. In this article you can find out how thrush can be safely prevented and treated, so if you’re looking for natural thrush treatments you can use in pregnancy, read on! You’ll also find out why thrush is more common during pregnancy – and how you can stop it in it’s tracks long term.
What is Thrush and What Causes It?
Candida albicans is the microscopic fungus which is responsible for most cases of thrush. While this organism ordinarily lives in the intestinal tract of men and women, nearly one out of three women have candida albicans present in their vagina. This can become a problem when its numbers outgrow the good bacteria – it’s a battle of the good bacteria with the bad bacteria and the side with the most ‘soldiers’ wins.
During pregnancy, the vagina becomes rich in a form of glucose named ‘glycogen’, which feeds the growth of candida albicans. It’s believed the higher levels of glycogen occurs due to increased oestrogen levels and reduced acidity in the vagina. This is why a pregnant woman is ten times more likely to get thrush than normal – instead of being a nice cosy home for thrush, the vagina is now a five star hotel! Coupled with a poor diet (especially if you’ve got terrible morning sickness or unhealthy cravings) and any stress, it can be a door wide open for thrush.
Other things which can kill good probiotic bacteria include:
- Birth control pills
- Steroidal/hormonal drugs
- Coffee/tea/carbonated drinks
- Synthetic vitamins
An unhealthy diet and lifestyle (high in sugar, artificial sweetener, caffeine, processed wheat/white flours etc) can cause havoc with the good bacteria in your body, allowing bad bacteria to thrive
Symptoms Of Thrush
Increased cervical fluid production is common during pregnancy, you may have already noticed a thin, milky discharge which is a result of your body’s hormones doing their job. If the discharge becomes thick, white and creamy (like cottage cheese) and if you have itching in your vaginal area, you may have thrush. Some women notice a stinging or burning sensation on the labia during urination and some also feel pain or burning during sexual intercourse. If this is you, it is important to have this checked out by your midwife or doctor, to ensure nothing else is going on.
Sometimes what you may assume are symptoms of thrush can actually be something more sinister, especially if you’re having trouble getting rid of it. Bacterial vaginosis or STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) can have the same thrush-like symptoms – the only way you can be sure is to get tested for all of these possibilities by your GP. See the video at the end of this article about how what you think is thrush may in fact be bacterial vaginosis and how you can restore the balance of good bacteria, beating the infection. Its a brilliant presentation that is highly informative – and important for every woman to understand about vaginal health.
Don’t feel embarrassed if you have any of these conditions – in the United States, around 30% of women aged 14-49 have bacterial vaginosis at any one time. You can have bacterial vaginosis without being symptomatic, so it can be hard to pinpoint when it began. But just like thrush, this happens when the good bacteria have been depleted and they are replaced by potentially harmful bacteria.
Bacterial vaginosis is often accompanied with a fishy odour (which can understandably be very embarrassing or distressing for women), and its important to note that those who have bacterial vaginosis are also at higher risk of pre-term labour. So while vaginal bacterial imbalances are fairly common problem, its best prevented and kept under control as described below.
How Do I Prevent Thrush?
Prevention is much better than cure, but chances are that you’re reading this because you already have thrush. Thrush can be kept under control or prevented by regular probiotics and a change in diet and lifestyle – obviously the more you change, the better and quicker results you will get.
Over the counter/pharmaceutical preparations may help your case of thrush fairly quickly (they usually take a few days to kick in and work in your system), but its important to know that it’s only fixing a symptom – and if you don’t fix whats going on underneath then you may find thrush or other bacterial infection reoccurring. Some over the counter preparations are no longer working for women so it strengthens the argument to look for the root cause of the imbalance.
The Importance of Probiotics
Many people are familiar with probiotics like acidophilus, but what most people don’t know is that the many strains of probiotics all have their own unique functions – they don’t all do the same thing.
In the 1980’s, Dr. Gregor Reid and Dr. Andrew Bruce discovered two lactobacillus strains, L. rhamnosus (GR-1™) and L. reuteri (RC-14®). These two strains have been shown to be very beneficial for improving the health of the urinary system and the vagina – helping to restore normal vaginal microflora, particularly in women with bacterial vaginosis as well as thrush. As a result, there have been over 20 published clinical trials and over 200 peer-reviewed publications documenting these benefits when taking these probiotics orally. I have included a presentation by Dr. Gregor Reid at the end of this article, which you’ll get some great information from, helping you to successfully prevent and treat thrush.
There are many probiotic preparations on the market, usually found at your health food store or at the chemist. They store the probiotics in the fridge being a live bacteria – you will likely need to ask for it as it won’t be on the shelf. However, its important to know that different strains of probiotics have different properties, so you need to know what strains to get or you may not have any benefits.
You also need to ensure you get a good quality, live probiotic in adequate amounts. Many probiotic products are being sold which aren’t going to be sufficient to have a health benefit. Probiotics are also added into food products, like drinks, yoghurts etc (without the manufacturers testing their products to see how effective they are). The problem not only lies not in how much probiotic they have added in, but how much are left at the end of shelf life. Don’t waste money on products that wont help – choose a good, effective probiotic from a naturopath or a good health food store who can help with advice on the best brands to take.
Thankfully, there are lots of natural remedies you can use to treat thrush a bout of thrush that are safe in pregnancy. Please note that douching is absolutely not recommended – do not douche or you may further upset the flora balance in your vagina, as you’ll not only wash away the bad bacteria but the good bacteria too.
Thrush Treatments – Over The Counter Remedies
If you are in your first trimester, your carer will be least likely to want to prescribe you something for thrush. However, if you are able to choose a pharmaceutical solution, be aware that it may solve the problem for you, yet some specific products may not be as effective. For example, if you get no relief from Canesten, it doesn’t mean that another brand like Nilstat won’t work. They have slightly different ingredients, so it may be a matter of finding what works at the time.
If nothing seems to be working (and you’ve ruled out other health issues with your doctor) or if you really want to target the root cause of thrush, you need to look at your diet and lifestyle choices. If you aren’t eating as well as you should (and throw in there an already lowered immune system, little exercise and added stress), your body isn’t going to be able to fight infections as well as it normally would. If you don’t make changes to your diet and lifestyle, then you could be headed for a long battle with thrush.
Boost your immune system by eating lots of fresh vegetables in a variety of colours, dark leafy green salads, some fruit (not too much!), protein, good fats (e.g. found in foods like avocado, coconut oil, chia seeds, eggs and fish) and other omega rich foods. I love making up delicious salads with baby spinach leaves as the base, with either chicken or tuna, avocado, tomato, sesame seeds, sometimes cubed roasted sweet potato (cooked in coconut oil) and I drizzle either a tablespoon of greek yoghurt or a mix of 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. Its so yummy and filling and so very healthy!
Replacing cooking oils with organic virgin coconut oil is very beneficial, because coconut oil is a anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral – its a brilliant health food. You can take it orally and it can even be used as a healthy, safe lubricant – but be aware that if you have sex while you have thrush, you could pass it onto your partner.
Thrush Treatments – Self Help & Natural Remedies
If you’d like to try some natural, or self help remedies, here are 11 things to try:
Thrush Self Help Tip #1: Natural Yogurt
Natural yoghurt contains a probiotic called acidophilus. However, the level of probiotics in yoghurt is quite low, so it can take a little more time to help, which can be frustrating especially if itching is a problem. You can eat yoghurt if you like, however some women swear by inserting some plain natural yoghurt into their vagina, which gives them a sense of relief. You can soak a tampon in the yoghurt, insert into the vagina for 2 hours, then change for new one. Alternately you can lather your vaginal area with yoghurt and wear a pad. Make sure you choose a natural, organic yoghurt, instead of a flavoured sweet yoghurt which has little health benefit.Thrush Self Help Tip #2: Garlic (Internally)
Inserting a clove of garlic internally is one of the most effective, speedy ways to rid of thrush for many women. Read the full article on how to do this here: How To Treat a Vaginal Infection With a Clove of Garlic.
Thrush Self Help Tip #3: Choose Cotton Underwear
Avoid underwear that is tight or contains materials like lycra or other fabrics which reduce air circulation. Natural, breathable cotton underwear is best. Avoid underwear altogether when possible.
Thrush Self Help Tip #4: Avoid Tight Pants
Don’t wear jeans or trousers if possible – opt for skirts or other loosely fitting clothing.
Thrush Self Help Tip #5: Keep Baths Short
Candida albicans thrive in moist, warm environments so try to avoid long, hot baths and be sure to dry yourself properly afterwards. Do not use any bubblebath or any other artificial additives.
Thrush Self Help Tip #6: Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar="http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-keywords=apple%20cider%20vinegar&linkCode=ur2&rh=n%3A3760901%2Ck%3Aapple%20cider%20vinegar&tag=bellybelcomau-20&url=search-alias%3Dhpc&linkId=CRHNYV7YYQTTWP4F as a soak in a bath and/or taken orally is a great way to balance your body’s pH level. This will only work if you buy ACV which is raw and unpasteurised, ideally unfiltered and organic. If the packaging says it has ‘the mother’ in it, buy it.
Add one cup to your bath, or take 1-2 tablespoons daily (until the infection clears, not as a once off), which can be in a glass of water, on salads or in a cup of hot tea. If you need to use a little bit of honey to sweeten ACV this may help, but don’t use too much.
Thrush Self Help Tip #7: Avoid Yeast/Processed Wheat Products
Lots of women swear that yeast in their diet increases the growth of candida. It’s often present in iron tonic supplements, so check the list of ingredients when taking them.
Thrush Self Help Tip #8: Boric Acid Capsules
You will need to source these from a compounding chemist, however the usual recommended dose for vaginal thrush is 600mg inserted into the vagina each night, for 2 weeks. Many women have said that it works a charm for them.
Thrush Self Help Tip #9: Cut Out Sugar
Too much sugar in your diet can cause thrush, as well as a host of other diseases, so be sure to look at seriously amending your diet. Cut out soft drinks (even the low/no sugar foods and drinks, as they are full of artificial sweetener which is even worse for you), processed foods, pre-packages fruit juices, flavoured milks, sweets, breads and pastries – most of these are pretty obvious. You’d be surprised where sugar is hidden, so always read the labels. Sugar really plays havoc with your body’s health and thrush thrives in it.
Thrush Self Help Tip #10: Choose Water Based Lubricant
Avoid personal lubricants with glycerine in them – and do not use baby oil (petrochemical byproduct) or other synthetic oils which make it hard for your skin to breathe. Water based lubricant is much better for your body, and coconut oil is a brilliant natural lubricant.
Thrush Self Help Tip #11: A Bit Of Sunshine
Just as you’ll be advised as a treatment for nappy rash (which is often fungal based), exposure to the sun can help stop thrush in its tracks. Thrush thrives in dark, moist places. Lying in a private spot in the sun and giving yourself some sun time can help. Of course, be mindful not to do this for too long and burn in the sun.
Can Thrush Affect My Baby?
If you have thrush when you go into labour, there is a small chance that your baby will catch it as he or she comes through the vagina. If a baby has thrush this is often seen as white patches in the baby’s mouth, but it isn’t serious and is easily treated.
If your baby does get thrush in the mouth, this may be passed back to you through breastfeeding and you can keep re-infecting each other, so it’s important that you treat the both of you at the same time. There are also over the counter preparations or you can ask your GP.
If your baby has passed thrush onto you, you may experience sore, tender nipples and a ‘shooting’ pain while breastfeeding you baby. The shooting pains may also occur after feeding, and seem to radiate from the nipple right through to the back of the breast. It’s pain which can make the eyes water and it can create so much tension in mum prior to feeding that it makes for an unpleasant experience and you may have feelings of wanting to give up breastfeeding. So before you do this, make sure you seek the services of a qualified Lactation Consultant (ideally an IBCLC – International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), who can come to your home and help identify any problems and/or diagnose any possible thrush, getting you on the road to more pleasant feeding!
You can locate Lactation Consultants through the following organisations:
- Australian Lactation Consultants Organisation
- Network of Australian Lactation Colleges
- National Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners
Some Great Information Worth Watching
Below is a presentation by Dr. Gregor Reid, Ph.D., MBA, who is a renowned probiotic researcher and the world’s leading expert in using clinically-documented probiotics to address women’s health concerns.
This presentation is brilliant – it’s easy to follow and detailed, so you will understand probiotics much better, especially with regards to women’s health (including thrush and bacterial vaginosis). I very much enjoyed watching this and learning so much about this common problem, which is on the rise with current lifestyle habits. It’s broken up into several short chapters – enjoy!
© Copyright 2009 by Kelly Winder, All Rights Reserved. Article may not be copied in part or full without written permission.
Follow Kelly, the creator of BellyBelly, on Google+ and become a fan of BellyBelly on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Please note that all of my suggestions and advice are of a generalised nature only and are not intended to replace advice from a qualified professional. BellyBelly.com.au – The Thinking Woman’s Website For Conception, Pregnancy, Birth and Baby. This article contains contributions made by our website Midwife, Brenda Manning (MIPP).
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