Unfortunately, Candida infections are very common in women who are pregnant. The hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy often increase the natural amount of Candida Albicans in a woman’s body, which causes overgrowth. This creates fungal infections that cause vaginal candidiasis (yeast infections) and other problems such as skin irritation, fatigue and oral thrush. Not only are candida infections uncomfortable, they can lead to additional complications that are more severe.
Vaginal Candidiasis Symptoms
Common yeast infection symptoms include itchiness in the woman’s genital area, pain during sex or while urinating, swelling and/or redness around or on the vulva and a clumpy white discharge that resembles cottage cheese. Although yeast infections are rarely life threatening, they can lead to a more invasive type of candidiasis that could potentially be lethal. Symptoms that require emergency medical treatment are vaginal bleeding, chest pain, high fever, difficulty breathing, severe stomach or groin pain, and overwhelming vomiting and nausea.
Symptoms of Other Types of Candida Infections
One of the first signs of oral thrush is lumpy white lesions on the tongue. Other signs include oral discomfort, bleeding if the lesions are touched, feeling as if you have cotton stuffed in your mouth and losing your sense of taste. Signs of a candida skin infection are itchiness and red bumps that are often easy to mistake for other conditions such as eczema or common rashes. In both cases, the conditions usually – but not always – develop because of some other candida infection already present in the body.
What are the Causes?
As mentioned previously, a major cause of candiasis in expectant mothers is due to the natural hormonal shift women undergo during pregnancy. Other possible causes can be a significant rise in blood sugar levels, taking antibiotics, or eating a high number of foods that are rich in yeasts and sugar. Pregnant women are also susceptible to candida skin infections due to the weight they gain during pregnancy, which develops moist areas on the body where yeasts naturally thrive and spread. Any complications with the pregnancy that weaken the mother’s immune system can also cause candida infections.
Diagnosing the Infection
Because candiasis can be mistaken for many other things, it is best to consult with your doctor if you suspect an infection. For yeast infections, your doctor will most likely take a sample of your vaginal discharge and test it for candidiasis. For other types of candiasis such as oral thrush or skin infections, the doctor can often make a diagnosis bases on the physical symptoms, but may also require blood work to confirm his or her diagnosis. Many women attempt a self-diagnosis, which most doctors and obstetricians do not recommend. If you suspect you have a candida-related infection, check with your primary care provider to be certain.
Some doctors will prescribe prescription medication or recommend over the counter products. Typically, the medicines are creams or suppositories that contain clotrimazole or some other type of anti-fungal medicines. However, because of the slight chance of these medicines harming the baby, some doctors may recommend changes in diet modifications as well as keeping stress levels as low as possible. There are also naturopathic treatments such as aromatherapy with essential oils that pregnant women can use as an alternative to pharmaceuticals. For natural treatments, you should consult with a naturopathic specialist. Even with medical treatments, almost all doctors agree that diet modifications are essential during pregnancy.
The same dietary guidelines that doctors recommend for treatment can be used preventatively as well. According to womenshealth.gov, pregnant women should be eating clean, healthy diets to begin with. Avoiding candy, chocolate, and fruits that increase blood glucose levels is highly recommended. Complex carbohydrates such as breads, cereals, excessive dairy products such as milk and cheese are good to avoid as well. Pregnant women should also avoid douching, immediately change out of wet underwear, wearing breathable cotton underwear and avoiding synthetic pantyhose and pants that are tight.
Kefir and probiotics like probacto’s can be extremely beneficial in helping regulate the body’s natural bacterial balance. Fresh or steamed vegetables are not only a good source of nutrition, but they can help boost the immune system, which helps prevent candida infections. Mothers to be should also drink plenty of water to help flush out the gastrointestinal tract and rid the body of toxins.
It is important to stay healthy, and eat properly if you want to avoid candida infections. Pregnancy causes many hormonal changes and you must be prepared for that. If you do get a Candida infection, you may wish to speak to your OB-GYN about treating it in a safe and effective manner.