By Xanet van Vuuren
According to obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Hillel Hurwitz, thrush is 10 times more common in pregnant women than in non-expectant women.
Thrush is an infection caused by the yeast fungus, Candida Albicans. It lives on the skin and in the vagina. But owing to Candida thriving in moist parts of the body that aren’t aired regularly, the vagina is particularly susceptible to infection. “Thrush is not a sexually transmitted disease, but an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina which can cause unpleasant symptoms,” says Hurwitz.
Causes of thrush
- Hormonal changes in pregnancy affect the pH (acidity/alkaline) level in the vagina.
- More sugar in the urine during pregnancy feeds yeast and makes pregnant moms more susceptible to thrush.
- Antibiotics kill friendly bacteria in the vagina, allowing yeast to grow.
- Yeast grows as a result of vaginal irritants such as perfumed soaps, vaginal sprays, deodorants, bubble bath and bath oils.
- Processed foods, such as sugar and alcohol, allow yeast to multiply in the bowel.
- Poor lubrication during sex allows yeast to grow from tiny tears in the vagina, so it’s advisable to speak to your doctor about the natural lubrication options available.
Symptoms of vaginal thrush
You won’t always experience symptoms, but the most common ones are:
- A thick, creamy yellow discharge from the vagina.
- Itchiness in the vagina and surrounding area.
- Burning irritation in the vaginal area and surrounding skin.
- Acidic-smelling odour.
- Stinging urination as it passes over the inflamed vaginal lining.
- Pain during intercourse.
- Red vagina and vulva.
- There are safe vaginal preparations available to treat thrush, says Hurwitz. He adds that oral medications shouldn’t be used during pregnancy.
- Probiotics and eating yoghurt containing acidophilus bacteria are helpful. Plain yoghurt can even be inserted into the vagina to treat the thrush.
When to consult your doctor
Many women treat thrush themselves, but it’s important to know that a vaginal discharge or vulva itch may be caused by something else.
Consult your doctor or gynaecologist if:
- You’re pregnant.
- You have abnormal vaginal bleeding or lower abdominal pain.
- You have other unrelated symptoms in addition to the thrush symptoms affecting the vagina and the vulva.
- There’s a foul-smelling discharge, or blisters and ulcers are present around the vagina.
- There are recurring symptoms which don’t disappear.
- Self-treatment isn’t working.