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Thrush when pregnant - symptoms and causes

Lady holding heart on baby bump. With blue sunny background
Pregnant women tend to get thrush due to changes that happen to the body during pregnancy. We look into more reasons its common, treatment and prevention.

There is nothing more irritating than vaginal thrush. Unfortunately, it is common for pregnant women to experience the yeast infection, alongside everything else that goes with pregnancy.

The good news is that it is not normally serious, but it can be very uncomfortable.

Here we take a closer look at some of the symptoms of thrush and investigate what exactly can cause it.

What is thrush?

Thrush, also known as candidiasis, is a yeast infection which can affect both men and women.1

Contrary to popular opinion, it is not classed as a sexually transmitted infection.

It is caused by a fungus called candida and thrives in warm, moist conditions.2

What causes thrush?

Candida usually lives in the vagina without causing any symptoms and its growth is kept under control by normal bacteria.

However, if the balance of this bacteria changes, then the candida fungus may grow and result in thrush.3

Thrush symptoms

Now that we know the causes of thrush, here are some of the symptoms to look out for.

Thrush in women can cause several symptoms, which remain the same in pregnancy.

These include:

  • Itchiness and irritation around the vagina and vulva
  • A sore feeling around the entrance to the vagina
  • A slight swelling of the labia (vaginal lips)4
  • A white discharge which is a similar consistency to cottage cheese and is usually odourless
  • A stinging or burning feeling during sex or when going to the toilet
  • Redness of the vagina5

Sometimes thrush does not cause any symptoms and so you may not even know that you have had it.6

Why is thrush common during pregnancy?

Pregnant women tend to get thrush because of the changes that happen to the body during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester.7

These changes cause a change in the balance of bacteria in the body.

The glucose content in the vaginal wall can increase, which provides good conditions for fungus to grow.

Your immune system is slightly weakened during pregnancy and this means that your body might find it more difficult to fight off vaginal infections.

Thrush is especially common during the latter stages of pregnancy, in the third trimester.9

During pregnancy, you might find that thrush keeps coming back or that the symptoms can take a while to clear completely.10

Why it is normal to have thrush when you are pregnant

Don’t worry, having thrush is no reflection on either you or your partner.

It does not mean that there is anything wrong with your pregnancy or that you have done anything wrong. It is completely normal to experience thrush during your pregnancy.

Oral thrush

Oral thrush can also happen more often during pregnancy. Symptoms of thrush in the mouth include redness inside the mouth, an unpleasant taste or loss of taste and a sore tongue and gums.11

Consult your GP or midwife to discuss a mouth thrush treatment suitable for pregnant women.

Can having thrush harm an unborn baby?

There is no evidence to suggest that a pregnant mother having thrush can harm an unborn baby.

Your baby is tucked safely inside your womb and will not come into contact with the infection during pregnancy.12

If you are suffering from thrush when the baby is born, the baby may catch it during birth. However, this is not anything to worry about and it can easily be treated.13

How can you treat thrush when pregnant?

If you are pregnant, you should consult your GP or your midwife before you take any treatments or medication to treat thrush.14

During pregnancy, thrush can be treated with a cream to use externally or a tablet which is inserted into the vagina. This thrush treatment tablet is called a pessary and contains clotrimazole, which is an antifungal drug.15

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding or trying for a baby then you should steer clear of anti-thrush oral tablets.16

How can I prevent thrush?

You may not be able to completely avoid thrush whilst pregnant, due to the hormonal changes in your body.

However, there are a few things you can do which might help to prevent it.

We know we don’t need to remind you, but always wipe from front to back when going to the toilet. This helps to prevent any bacteria entering the vagina.

Make sure you change your underwear if you go swimming or do a workout.

And speaking of underwear, cotton is best, as it allows the skin to breathe and helps to avoid the warm, moist conditions where candida otherwise thrives.17

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