What Is Thrush?
Before getting into treating thrush in pregnancy, it’s important to understand what thrush is, which is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the Candida yeast species, most commonly Candida albicans. This naturally occurring yeast appears in small amounts in the vagina and is kept under control by healthy bacteria. Certain conditions can allow the yeast to rapidly multiply, causing symptoms of irritation and discomfort.
What Causes Thrush During Pregnancy?
Several factors come together to make thrush more prevalent in pregnant women:
- Higher Estrogen Levels – The increased estrogen changes the acidity in the vagina, allowing more yeast growth.
- Elevated Blood Sugar – Hormonal changes can cause higher blood sugar which enables the yeast to multiply faster.
- Weakened Immunity – Pregnancy dampens the body’s immune response, making it harder to control yeast overgrowth.
- Increased Blood Flow – More blood flow to the vaginal area supplies the yeast with more nutrients.
- Changes in Vaginal Flora – The delicate microbial balance in the vagina gets disturbed, allowing the fungal yeast to thrive.
How Is Thrush Diagnosed?
If you have symptoms of a potential thrush infection, the first step is to get an accurate diagnosis from your doctor, midwife or health visitor. They will ask about your symptoms and medical history. The main diagnostic test for thrush is a physical examination of the affected area.
Your doctor may use a cotton swab to take a sample of the discharge from your vagina or nipple. This sample will be examined under a microscope to check for excess Candida fungi. Learning whether thrush is causing your symptoms is crucial before starting any treatment.
Recognizing Thrush Symptoms
Be on the lookout for these common signs of thrush during pregnancy:
- Itchy, irritated, or burning vulva and vagina
- Stinging or soreness while peeing or having sex
- White, thick, clumpy, odorless discharge
- Vaginal inflammation or redness
- Cracked, itchy or painful nipples
- Small cuts or cracks in the vagina
- Discomfort during intercourse
See your doctor promptly if you experience any of these symptoms. Getting an early diagnosis and prompt treatment is key when you have thrush while pregnant.
Risks of Untreated Thrush in Pregnant Women
Letting a thrush infection go untreated during pregnancy poses some risks:
- Increased discomfort, pain, itching in the genital area
- Potential spread of infection to the cervix or uterus
- Higher chance of premature labour and delivery
- Greater likelihood of passing thrush to the baby during birth
Treating thrush reduces the chances of complications during pregnancy and birth. Always consult your doctor or midwife at the first signs of thrush.
Safe Thrush Treatments During Pregnancy
There are several safe and effective options to get rid of thrush while pregnant:
- Topical Antifungal Creams – Clotrimazole or miconazole creams provide relief when applied to the affected areas.
- Vaginal Pessaries – Vaginal tablets containing clotrimazole combat thrush from inside the vagina.
- Oral Medication – For severe infections, oral fluconazole may be prescribed under medical guidance.
- Probiotics – Consuming yogurt or taking probiotic supplements can help restore healthy bacteria.
- Tea Tree Oil – Adding a few drops of tea tree essential oil to a bath can provide soothing relief from symptoms.
Always consult your doctor before using any medication, even over-the-counter thrush treatments. Follow the directions carefully and complete the full course as prescribed. Inform your doctor promptly if symptoms persist or worsen after treatment.
Treatment Duration and Recurrence
The typical duration for thrush treatment is around 7 days. But your doctor may advise using the antifungal creams or pessaries for 10 to 14 days if symptoms are severe. It’s important to finish the entire course of medication, even if your symptoms resolve earlier.
Some women may experience recurring thrush infections throughout their pregnancy. Let your doctor know if symptoms reappear within a couple of weeks after finishing treatment. Recurrent thrush is treated with a longer course, up to 6 months, of antifungal medication. Your partner may also need treatment if infections keep recurring.
Preventing Thrush During Pregnancy
You can reduce your chances of getting thrush infections while pregnant by:
- Maintaining good vaginal and intimate hygiene.
- Wearing loose, breathable cotton underwear.
- Changing out of damp clothes like swimwear right after use.
- Avoiding prolonged use of antibiotics or steroids.
- Sticking to a low sugar diet.
- Using plain, unscented soaps.
- Cleaning front to back after using the toilet.
These simple self-care habits can go a long way in preventing thrush from taking hold when you’re expecting.
Dealing with Oral Thrush While Breastfeeding
Thrush infections during pregnancy can sometimes pass to the baby during childbirth and lead to oral thrush. Look out for these signs of oral thrush in infants:
- White lesions or coating on the tongue, gums, or inner cheeks
- Fussiness during feeding
- Excessive drooling
- Trouble sucking or swallowing
See your health visitor or doctor right away if your baby has oral thrush. Along with medication, try these tips while breastfeeding:
- Apply an antifungal nipple cream after feeds
- Use sterilised pumping equipment
- Wash hands before handling breasts
- Avoid sharing towels or clothing with the baby
With prompt treatment, you can continue breastfeeding while managing thrush. But speak to a breastfeeding counsellor if it becomes too painful.
Thrush Medication Safety in Pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, having thrush can be worrying enough without concerns over medication safety. However, several clinical studies have confirmed the safety of antifungal drugs like clotrimazole and fluconazole in pregnancy. These are classified as category A or B drugs, meaning no proven risks in human studies.
Topical creams like clotrimazole have minimal systemic absorption, so the medication stays localized. Oral capsules of fluconazole may have more absorption into the bloodstream. But standard single doses have not shown any increased risks. Check with your doctor about any medication concerns you may have for treating thrush in pregnancy.
When to Call Your Doctor Again
Contact your doctor again if:
- Symptoms don’t start improving within 3 days of starting treatment
- You finish the course of medication but symptoms still persist
- Thrush recurs 2 or more times
- Symptoms like fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain develop
- You have concerns about the medication or dosage
Don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider if you have any doubts or questions about treating your thrush infection. Reporting worsening symptoms or treatment issues early can prevent potential complications.
Thrush is a nuisance but treatable condition during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Seek medical advice at the earliest signs of an infection. With the right treatment, preventative habits and prompt care for oral thrush in babies, you can overcome thrush effectively and go on to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
Photo “Thrush” by Anthony Cunningham for Zoom Baby