What is thrush?
Thrush is caused by Candida albicans, a yeast like fungus, which can grow and thrive when there is a pH imbalance within the vagina.
Thrush is common, as 75% of women will develop thrush at least once during their lifetime. Thrush can also be found on other parts of the body, such as in the mouth, the breast or penis (therefore it can be spread through intercourse, although it is not classed as a sexually transmitted infection).
Pregnancy hormones, a course of antibiotics and diabetes can all be a trigger for women to develop a bout vaginal thrush, as these can all disturb the body’s pH balance. Once you have developed thrush it can disappear naturally or there are treatments available which target the yeast growth and ease the symptoms.
Developing thrush during pregnancy wont harm your baby, however, if you have thrush during the birth it can be passed to your baby. A paediatrician will advise on how to treat your baby if this happens.
What are the symptoms of vaginal thrush?
Thrush can cause irritation of the vagina, the vulva, the surrounding area and can even spread onto the upper thighs if it doesn’t clear up naturally and is left untreated. It can present as swelling, a white lumpy discharge (often described as resembling cottage cheese) and most commonly causes varying degrees of itchiness.
How can I ease and help to prevent thrush?
- Try to wear loose fitting underwear and clothes made from natural fibres such as cotton, silk and linen- these help your skin to breathe more easily as they are more absorbent. If you can, go pant-free to allow air to circulate freely.
- Make sure your washing detergent or fabric conditioner isn’t causing or increasing the irritation by changing to a milder or anti-allergy type.
- If you use pads or panty liners make sure they are natural or fragrance free. Even better, invest in washable ones which you know are free from chemicals and you can wash in a fragrance-free or washing product of your own choice. They are also softer, so don’t rub and irritate the vulval area any further.
- If your underwear or clothes become sweaty or damp for any reason, for example when swimming or exercising, change into fresh clothing as soon as you can. Thrush loves a damp, warm environment in which to multiply.
- Avoid using perfumed soaps and shower gels as these can irritate you further. Wash with plain water or a pH balanced wash designed for use on the vulval area.
- Don’t douche (rinse or clean out the vagina with water or anything else) your vagina. Your vagina is a self-cleaning, self-balancing tube.
- Be careful after going to the toilet, making sure you clean front to back to avoid any bacteria from your back passage being wiped into the vulval/vaginal area.
Treatments for thrush and recurrent thrush
- There are over the counter pessaries available to treat vaginal thrush- your pharmacist will be able to advise you on the latest recommended treatments and which to use during pregnancy.
- Try to avoid sex whilst your thrush is being treated and wait for symptoms to clear completely. Current advice is that your partner doesn’t need specific treatment for thrush unless they also become symptomatic.
- If self help measures have been tried and they haven’t worked or your thrush reoccurs despite these measures, make an appointment with your GP to discuss the next stage of treatment, which is usually a course of antibiotics.
Developing thrush during pregnancy can be extremely irritating, but don’t worry there are effective self help remedies available to help you take control of this itchy situation.