Thrush in Pregnancy causes Symptoms and Treatment

Thrush is a yeast infection most commonly caused by a proliferation of Candida albicans in the vagina.  Candida albicans is present in most healthy human beings and usually causes no problems but in exceptional circumstances the increase in the quantity of the yeast organisms leads to Thrush and this is particularly common in pregnancy.

Causes:

The overgrowth of the candida organisms can be attributed to various causes.  The yeast flourishes in warm, airless environments which is why the vagina is the perfect host.  Anything that increases these conditions can lead to an infection.

Tight clothing and clothing that contains a large proportion of man-made fibres increases the heat and lack of air which leads to an overgrowth of the organism.

Lying in hot baths, particularly those containing a lot of perfumed products upsets the natural vaginal balance and allows the infection to take hold.  Many women whilst pregnant suffer an increase in normal discharge and use panty liners to ensure they feel fresh and dry, using scented liners irritates the delicate tissues and this can lead to instances of Thrush too.

Antibiotics upset the natural bacteria balance of the body and the bacteria helps to keep the level of yeast organisms low.  Disturbance of this balance can rapidly lead to a Thrush infection.

Pregnancy increases the level of sugar in the vagina and this provides a rich source of nutrients for the yeast organisms which leads to a rapid increase in the number of yeast cells and so produces Thrush symptoms. 

Poorly controlled Diabetes and undiagnosed Gestational Diabetes also leads to a large increase in the level of sugar in the vagina which can produce chronic infections.

Symptoms:

Thrush most commonly presents with itching and irritation around the vulva and vagina.  The skin will often be red and there can also be swelling and soreness in the area.  Many ladies also suffer from a discharge. The discharge is usually thick and is white or cream in color, there is no unpleasant smell associated with the discharge from Thrush.  The discharge can have a slightly lumpy texture, similar to that of cottage cheese.  If there is any offensive smell or a coloured discharge then the diagnosis is unlikely to be Thrush.  Many women in pregnancy find that they have more discharge than usual but it is the chronic irritation that is often the defining symptom.

Occasionally Thrush can be missed in pregnancy and ladies presume that they are simply suffering from normal symptoms of pregnancy.  In these cases the baby will often become infected with Thrush whilst in the birth canal.  This is not usually a serious problem and the baby can easily be treated.

Treatment:

Diagnosis should always be made by a medical professional who will want to rule out more serious problems as being the underlying cause of the Thrush, particularly Gestational Diabetes.  Once the diagnosis of uncomplicated Thrush has been reached then treatment can begin.

The external irritation is usually treated by the local application of a cream containing an antifungal ingredient such as Clotrimazole.  This produces a soothing effect on the skin as well as helping to decrease the presence of the yeast organisms.  External application of the cream will not eradicate the condition completely and an internal treatment will also be needed.

Pessaries containing anti-fungal properties will need to be inserted into the vagina.  These pessaries usually come with an applicator but it is advised that during pregnancy women should insert the pessaries gently using their finger rather than the applicator as the hard, plastic applicator is harder to control and can come into contact with the delicate cervix.

Although treatments with oral tablets are a popular choice for Thrush they are rarely used in pregnancy as local application is considered a safer method of treatment.

Alongside the chemical treatment it is a good idea for the patient to adopt some habits that may prevent re-infection.  Wearing loose fitting clothes and underwear that is made from cotton help to keep the area around the vulva cool and healthy and help prevent the formation of the ideal growth conditions for the infection.  Long, scented baths should be avoided and showers should be taken with fragrance-free products if possible.  Incorporating live bacteria yogurt products into the diet every day can help the body maintain a healthy bacterial level which can prevent the build-up of the Candida organisms.  Good personal hygiene when using the toilet, especially always wiping from front to back can help prevent the onset of the infection too.

Although Thrush is not classified as a sexually transmitted disease it can pass between partners so it is a good idea for the male to be treated with an anti-fungal cream too even though men rarely display any symptoms.

Thrush is a common condition during pregnancy but unfortunately it can be very uncomfortable.  Any disorder in pregnancy should always receive the attention of medical staff but it is generally easy to treat and reoccurrence can often be prevented.