Vaginal Fungal Infections


The information provided below is for readers based in the United States of America. Readers outside of the United States of America should seek the information from local sources.

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 (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or read the following articles:


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General information

It is very common for women to worry about having a miscarriage or giving birth to a child with a birth defect while they are pregnant. Many decisions that women make about their health during pregnancy are made with these concerns in mind.

For many women these concerns are very real. As many as 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect. These rates are considered the background population risk, which means they do not take into consideration anything about the health of the mom, the medications she is taking, or the family history of the mom or the baby’s dad. A number of different things can increase these risks, including taking certain medications during pregnancy.

It is known that most medications, including over-the-counter medications, taken during pregnancy do get passed on to the baby. Fortunately, most medicines are not harmful to the baby and can be safely taken during pregnancy. But there are some that are known to be harmful to a baby’s normal development and growth, especially when they are taken during certain times of the pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to talk with your doctor or midwife about any medications you are taking, ideally before you even try to get pregnant.

If a doctor other than the one caring for your pregnancy recommends that you start a new medicine while you are pregnant, it is important that you let them know you are pregnant.

If you do need to take a new medication while pregnant, it is important to discuss the possible risks the medicine may pose on your pregnancy with your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand the benefits and the risks of taking the medicine.

Ultimately, the decision to start, stop, or change medications during pregnancy is up to you to make, along with input from your doctor or midwife. If you do take medications during pregnancy, be sure to keep track of all the medications you are taking.

Medications for Vaginal Fungal Infections

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