Vaginal Fungal Infections
INFORMATION FOR WOMEN WHO HAVE VAGINAL FUNGAL INFECTIONS DURING PREGNANCY
What are vaginal fungal infections during pregnancy?
Also known as a Candida infection (Candidiasis) or a yeast infection, a fungal infection in the vagina is an infection with any of several species belonging to a genus (group) of fungus called Candida. Fungal infection of the vagina and vulva is called vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC), or sometimes vulvovaginitis. VVC is an example of a superficial fungal infection, which also applies to fungal infections of the skin and nails. This is in contrast with fungal infections that are classified as invasive, meaning that the fungus has infected the bloodstream (candidemia) and/or various parts of the body, including the lungs or the layers around the brain. Most fungal infections in humans are caused by a species of fungus called Candida albicans. Among non-C. albicans infections, most are caused by any of the following other four Candida species: Candida glabrata, Candida tropicalis, Candida parapsilosis, Candida krusei.
How common are vaginal fungal infections in pregnancy?
Fungal infections of the vagina and vulva are very common, and women are at higher risk of developing a genital fungal infection. VVC is extremely common during pregnancy, just as it is common outside of pregnancy. Pregnancy actually makes you more prone to Candida infection, especially during the third trimester.
How are vaginal fungal infection diagnosed?
In the case of VVC, the symptoms that you report, such as itching and vaginal discharge, plus findings on the physical examination will make the physician confident enough to make a diagnosis of C. albicans. In some cases, such as the presence co-existing health issues for which you are receiving medications, or a history of recurring Candida infections, your doctor may take a sample of the discharge for examination under a microscope, and for other laboratory tests. Looking at the samples under a microscope, the examiner (usually a clinical pathologist) will see characteristic features of the Candida organism, and help to determine if it is indeed C. albicans, if it is one of the four other Candida species that are fairly common, if it is a rare fungal infection, or if non-fungal organisms are complicating the picture.
Do vaginal fungal infections cause problems during pregnancy?
Vaginal Candida infections can produce very severe itching. Additionally, the infection can become chronic, meaning persistent and difficult to eliminate.
Do vaginal fungal infections during pregnancy cause problems for the baby?
VVA and other superficial Candida infections do not put the developing baby at risk.
What to consider about taking medications when you are pregnant:
- The risks to yourself and your baby if you do not treat the vaginal fungal infection.
- The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are pregnant
- The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are breastfeeding
What should I know about using medication to treat vaginal fungal infections during pregnancy?
The main medications used against vaginal Candida infections are called triazole antifungals. These include clotrimazole, miconazole, fluconazole, and voriconazole. Another drug is called ciclopirox, and another category is called the polyene antifungals, which includes nystatin. Some of these medications are available as a topical cream, others to swallow orally, and some come in both oral and topical forms. For treating surface fungal infections and VVC, the first choice is always to use a topical cream; virtually all of the anti-fungal drugs that are given topically or into the vagina are considered safe to use during pregnancy.
Who should NOT stop taking medication for vaginal fungal infections in pregnancy?
So long as the anti-fungal drug is selected appropriately for your condition and pregnant status, there is no reason to stop using it as directed.
What should I know about choosing a medication for vaginal fungal infections in pregnancy?
You may find Pregistrys expert reports about the individual medications to treat vaginal fungal infections here. Additional information can also be found in the sources listed at the end of this report.
What should I know about taking a medication for vaginal fungal infections when I am breastfeeding?
All topical and vaginal anti-fungal creams can be used safely by mothers who breastfeed. Be sure to wash your hands before handling your baby and if you get the cream near your nipples, be sure they are washed before you breastfeed.
What alternative therapies besides medications are there to treat vaginal fungal infections during pregnancy?
There is no alternative to anti-fungal medications, but you can reduce your risk of developing a fungal infection by drying off as soon as you are finished swimming or exercising, and by using antibiotics only for the prescribed duration of treatment (dont take extra).
What can I do for myself and my baby when I have a vaginal fungal infection during pregnancy?
Use the medication that your doctor prescribes, or recommends. For uncomplicated cases of VVC, generally, your doctor can simply refer you to your local pharmacy where you can obtain an over-the-counter anti-fungal cream.
Resources for vaginal fungal infection during pregnancy:
For more information about vaginal fungal infections during pregnancy, contact http://www.womenshealth.gov/ (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or read the following articles:
- Mayo Clinic: Yeast infection during pregnancy: Are over-the-counter treatments OK?
- What to Expect: Yeast Infection During Pregnancy