Thrush During Pregnancy – Vaginal Thrush Symptoms And Treatments
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Thrush During Pregnancy – Vaginal Thrush Symptoms And Treatments
Thrush during pregnancy is unfortunately more common than when you’re not pregnant. Want to know how thrush can be safely prevented and treated? Looking for natural thrush treatments you can use in pregnancy? Find out why thrush is more common during pregnancy and how you can stop it in it’s tracks.
What is Thrush and What Causes It?
Candida albicans is the microscopic fungus which is responsible for 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 if you’ve got terrible morning sickness or unhealthy cravings it can be an open door for thrush.
Other things which can kill good pro-biotic bacteria include:
- Birth Control Pills
- Steroidal/hormonal drugs
- Coffee/Tea/Carbonated Drinks
- Synthetic vitamins
An acidic diet (high in sugar, artificial sweetener, caffeine, processed wheat/white flours etc) can also cause havoc with good bacteria in your body and allow bad bacteria to thrive. Switch to more alkaline foods in an alkaline diet – you’ll feel so much better with so many aspects of your health, from good bacteria, to energy and less headaches.
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
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.
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 choose a pharmaceutical solution, this may work fine, but be aware that some types of anti-fungal preparations may not work for you, e.g. if you have no relief from Canesten, it doesn’t mean another brand like Nilstat won’t work. They have slightly different constituents, so it may be a matter of finding what works at the time. If nothing is working, you need to look at the possibility of it not being thrush but another problem instead. Your lowered immune system may be the underlying cause, especially if you aren’t eating as well as you should or have a diet high in sugar and/or processed foods, including the white flours (white bread, pastries, cake, biscuits). In which case it is important to focus on diet and boosting your immune system, naturally, with juicing, lots of vegetables (especially the dark green kind) and some fruit and of course, protein. Replacing cooking oils with organic virgin coconut oil, which is a natural anti-fungal and anti-bacterial – its brilliant stuff.
If you are in your first trimester, your carer will be least likely to want to prescribe you something for thrush. Here are some suggestions below if you cannot take any medication or if you’re looking for a natural remedy.
Thrush Treatments – Self Help & Natural Remedies
- Natural live yogurt 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 the yoghurt as much as you like, some women swear by inserting some plain natural yoghurt into their vagina. You can soak a tampon in natural yoghurt, (differentiate just unsweetened from true natural yoghurt) and insert into the vagina for 2 hours, then change for new one. I recommend Jalna natural yoghurt.
- Garlic internally. This is one of the most effective, quick ways to rid thrush for many women. Read a full article here: How To Treat a Vaginal Infection With a Clove of Garlic.
- Avoid underwear that is tight or contains materials like lycra and other fabric which reduces air circulation – cotton is best. Avoid underwear wherever possible – not a good idea though if you are going to work and wearing a skirt! Around the home and overnight is a good start.
- Avoid tight jeans or trousers where possible – opt for skirts if you can.
- Candida albicans thrive in moist, warm environments so try to avoid long, hot baths and dry yourself properly afterwards.
- Good old Gentian Violet in an aqua or water base is still extremely effective for vaginal thrush (just messy and ‘out there’ being bright purple). Its especially good for nipples and babies mouths as it is very liquid and soaks into all the crevices in the tissues which a gel like Daktarin cannot.
- Try avoiding yeast/processed wheat products – lot of women swear that yeast in their diet increases the growth of candida. It’s often present in iron tonic supplements so check list of ingredients when taking these.
- 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.
- High levels of sugar in diets cause thrush, so be sure to look amending the diet – cut out soft drinks, processed foods, flavoured milks, breads and pastries – anything that we well know is not good for us. You’d be surprised where sugar is hidden, so always read the labels.
- Avoid personal lubricants with glycerine in them – and do not use baby oil or other products. Water based lubricant is best.
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. Fast Tract is safe for babies, you can give them 1ml and you can take the adult dose. 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:
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 pro-biotics 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.
Kelly Winder is a birth attendant (aka doula), the creator of BellyBelly and mum to three beautiful children. Become a fan of BellyBelly on Facebook or add Kelly here. BellyBelly is also 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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