Do you have a thick, white clumpy discharge? Chances are that you could have a yeast infection!
Yeast infections are very common and affect 75% of women at some point during their lives. The good news is that it’s easy to cure. Find out more about what causes yeast infections, symptoms and cures, as well as how your period affects them.
What Causes Yeast Infections?
Candida Albicans is the culprit behind most yeast infections (90%). The remainder are another strain of Candida.
Most people already have Candida present in their vagina, but they have no symptoms of a yeast infection. For an infection to occur, the balance between yeast and bacteria has to be disturbed, which allows the yeast to grow too rapidly.
The balance can be easily disturbed when taking antibiotics or by immunosuppressive drugs. Other reasons include after chemotherapy, or when taking cortisone related medications.
Some conditions that may predispose someone to more yeast infections are pregnancy, diabetes, and taking oral contraceptives.
People with HIV are also more susceptible to infections like this.
High Estrogen Levels
This can happen during pregnancy, with hormone therapy treatment, when using high-dose birth control, or during the menstrual cycle.
Warm, Moist Environments
Yeast love warm, moist environments so not drying off after a shower, wearing tight restrictive clothing, or underwear that doesn’t breathe can be part of the problem. As soon as you finish a workout or swim, remove wet clothing.
Another cause of yeast infections are chemical irritants, such as those found in douches, vaginal soaps or some brands of scented tampons. Regular showers are enough to keep the vagina clean, and these products to “clean” the vagina are not recommended. In fact, they’re on our list of the Top 5 Things you Should Never Put into your Vagina.
After Going to the Bathroom
Finally, you can contract vaginal infections if you wipe from back to front when going to the bathroom. Go front to back in order to prevent this.
Not Washing your Hands Well
It’s important to wash your hands well before handling a tampon, or especially a menstrual cup. If you don’t, you can introduce all kinds of foreign bacteria into your vagina.
Yeast Infections are not considered to be an STI (sexually transmitted infection). That said, they can pass from one partner to the other.
Studies have shown that people who are overweight tend to get more yeast infections.
Most Common Causes of Yeast Infections
Can Tampons Cause Yeast Infections?
Tampons have been known to cause vaginal infections for some people, particularly the scented brands. If you’re prone to yeast infections, it’s recommended that you change them out sooner the recommended 8 hours. This holds true for menstrual pads as well.
Opt for Organic Tampons or Menstrual Cups
Organic tampons are hypoallergenic and shouldn’t irritate the vagina. Menstrual cups contain no toxins in them, and most people find that they get fewer vaginal infections when making the switch from tampons.
What are the Symptoms of Yeast Infections?
Some of the symptoms of yeast infections are the following:
- Itching or burning around the vulva, as well as redness, irritation and soreness
- Discharge (usually thick, odourless, and sometimes like cottage cheese). White discharge that’s doesn’t have a cottage cheese like consistency is not normally a yeast infection.
- Pain during intercourse or urination
- pH balance equal to or less than 4.5
How is a Yeast Infection Diagnosed?
Self diagnosis often goes wrong because people misdiagnose a yeast infection as bacterial vaginosis and vice versa. The rule of thumb is that BV is stinky, while a yeast infection is not.
However, if you’re experiencing one of these things for the first time, check with your doctor. They’ll usually get a culture of the discharge done to be sure.
How to Cure Yeast Infections
Treatment usually consists of topical or oral anti-fungal medication.
Topical antibiotics (anti-fungals) can be bought over the counter and the length of treatment depends on the kind (usually from 1-7 days). They cure 90% of the cases for people who complete the entire course of treatment.
***A word of caution about this. Some people treat themselves with over the counter medications, but they don’t actually have a yeast infection. It’s often better to check with your doctor to make sure this is the case.***
Oral prescriptions can be used by people with recurring yeast infections, or those who didn’t respond to over the counter treatments. Diflucan is a common one that is used. This option cannot be used by pregnant women. Check with your doctor for the full details.
I’m Pregnant: Can I use these Medications?
If you’re pregnant, it’s safe to use miconazole or clotrimazole. However, you should not use fluconazole because it can cause birth defects. Check with your doctor to be certain. Extra caution is needed.
Can I Use Monistat While on my Period?
Monistat is one of the most popular over the counter treatments for a yeast infection. According to the company website, it is possible to use Monistat during your period. There is no difference in how the product works, during your period, or not.
They do mention that you should not use tampons if you’re also using Monistat because they can remove some of the medication. They suggest a deodorant free pad or sanitary napkin.
Recurring Yeast Infection Treatment
If you’re gotten yeast infections at least 4 times within a year, your doctor could recommend taking a fluconazole pill weekly for 6 months to clear it up.
Does my Partner Need to Be Treated as Well?
A yeast infection is not considered to be an STI because you can get it without having had sex. However, it can be passed from partner to partner and men can get it as well. You should consider using things like condoms and dental dams to prevent this.
If you have a yeast infection, your partner does not need to be treated as well unless they’re showing symptoms of it themselves.
Periods and Yeast Infections
Here are all the details you need to know about periods and vaginal infection. It is certainly possible to have a yeast infection on your period, as well as before or after.
Yeast Infection Before Period
Some people commonly experience vaginal infections before their period. It can be because of changing hormone levels. Or, it can be because the immune system is slightly weakened. If you’re going to get a yeast infection, the most likely time is within a week before your period starts.
Itchy Vagina Before Period: is it a Yeast Infection?
If you have an itchy vagina right before your period, it could be a sign of a yeast infection. It could also be a skin infection, or some other thing not related to a vaginal infection. Check with your doctor if this happens to you frequently.
Yeast Infection After Period
It’s also quite common to get a vaginal infection after your period. The reason is the same: hormonal changes. This can cause a fluctuation in the pH level in your vagina which can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria, or yeast.
Can you Use Tampons with a Yeast Infection?
It is indeed possible to use your regular form of period protection, including tampons while you have a vaginal infection.
However, if you’re using a topical anti-fungal treatment, tampons should be avoided. This is because they’ll absorb some of the cream. Instead, use a hypoallergenic pad.
Can Yeast Infections Affect your Period?
Your period will happen whether you have a vaginal infection or not.
Brown, Clumpy Discharge and Itching
If you have brown discharge, that’s also accompanied by itching and/or burning, you may have a yeast infection around the time of your period. More details here:
Can you Use Yeast Infection Cream While on your Period?
A common question is whether or not you can use over the counter yeast infection creams like Monistat during your period. The easy answer is, “yes!” Your period will not affect the effectiveness of these products.
Just be sure to avoid tampons if you’re using these creams to treat a yeast infection. Make the switch to organic, or unscented pads or reusable cloth pads for use with Monistat.
Does your Period Get Rid of a Yeast Infection?
Another question is whether or not your period can help to clear a yeast infection. It’s not likely that menstruation will clear up a yeast infection entirely. However, it may help to flush the yeast out of your vagina. In addition, it may alter the pH balance of your vagina slightly, which could have a positive (or also negative effect).
There isn’t a lot of information about how menstruation impacts yeast infections in terms of getting rid of it.
Yeast Infection and Delayed Period
There is some people who anecdotally find that their period is delayed by a day or two because they have a yeast infection. However, there is no evidence to support this.
Yeast Infection During your Period
Is my Menstrual Cup Causing Vaginal Infections?
Most people experience fewer vaginal infections like BV when making the switch to a menstrual cup like the Diva Cup from tampons. However, there are some people who have more.
If this is the case for you, here are a few things you can try:
- Wash your hands before inserting your menstrual cup, taking it out, or even handling it in any way.
- Keep your menstrual cup clean during your period. Do this by washing it well with a mild soap or menstrual cup wash and water.
- Be sure to wash off any soap residue very well.
- You can boil your cup between periods in a pot of water on the stove for 5 minutes to sterilize it.
Following these steps should cure most of the vaginal infection and menstrual cup problems. If not, try switching to pads or tampons for a few months. See if the situation improves. Menstrual cups like the Diva Cup don’t work for everyone.
How Can I Prevent Vaginal Infections?
Nobody likes a thick, white, clumpy discharge!
Here are a few things you can do to keep your vagina happy and free from infection:
- Take regular showers and keep things clean “down there”
- Avoid tight-fitting clothing
- Change out of sweaty workout clothes or swimsuits quickly
- Don’t use douches, vaginal soaps, or scented tampons
- Change your tampon, pantyliner, or pad regularly
- Consider making the switch to a menstrual cup
- Wash your hands before handling any feminine hygiene product
- Wear breathable cotton underwear
- Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom
- Avoid hot tubs or very hot baths
- If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar in check
- Eat yogurt with live cultures (maybe?)
- Maintain good overall health, and a healthy body weight
Tips for Preventing a Yeast Infection
Does Yogurt Help Prevent Infection?
It’s common wisdom that eating lots of yogurt helps to keep the pH levels in your vagina in check. But, does it really work? Maybe.
Studies show that eating yogurt with “live cultures” daily or taking Lactobacillus acidophilus capsules can help to reduce the number of vaginal infections you get. However, it’s not really a slam-dunk and further research is needed.
Yeast Infection vs Bacterial Vaginosis
One common problem is that many women are confused as to the difference between a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis (BV). Self-diagnosis (and treatment) with over the counter medicines or home remedies can actually make both of these problems worse, if you’re treating for the wrong condition.
For example, over the counter medications for yeast infections will make your BV worse. Or, getting your hands on some antibiotics to treat BV when you actually have a yeast infection will make it worse by killing all the good bacteria in your body.
Please see a doctor for a vaginal infection, especially if it’s your first time experiencing it.
That said, there are a few common ways to differentiate between a yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis.
A common sign of a yeast infection is white, clumpy discharge. It doesn’t have a smell, but you can have some serious itching and burning around your vulva.
Usually you’ll have a grey-white discharge that’s thin and watery. It has a strong, fishy odour to it that’s quite distinctive. There isn’t itching or burning usually with BV.
Vaginal Infections: Have your Say!
Is there a question that we didn’t answer in this ultimate guide to yeast infections? Leave a comment below and let us know.