Getting pregnant is something that many women want. Once the journey begins, they begin to monitor their diet, become more careful and do everything to ensure that the unborn child is healthy. However, the journey does not always go smoothly. Some women may experience vaginal infections. According to a 2009 study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, vaginal yeast infection is a common illness that affects three out of four women at various stages of their lives. This means that vaginal infection during pregnancy is also possible. An expert shares the causes and what to do if you have a vaginal infection during pregnancy.
What are vaginal infections?
Vaginal infection is a fungal infection that leads to intense irritation, discharge and itching in the vaginal and vulvar areas, says Dr Swetha MP, Consultant – Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Maternity Hospitals, HRBR Layout, Bengaluru. They affect many women, some experiencing recurring episodes. Medications are generally effective in treating vaginal yeast infections, although women with recurring cases may require prolonged treatment and ongoing care.
Causes of vaginal infections during pregnancy
Vaginal infections during pregnancy can result from a variety of factors. Understanding the causes is therefore the first step to preserving maternal and fetal health during this critical period.
1. Hormonal changes
Pregnancy induces hormonal changes that can alter vaginal pH. Once this happens, the chances of infection increase.
2. Weakened immunity
When your immunity is low, you get sick easily. In pregnant women, pregnancy-related immune changes can reduce the body’s ability to fight infections, says Dr. Swetha.
3. Bacterial vaginosis
This happens when there is an overgrowth of bacteria that usually lives in the vagina. Pregnant women face an increased risk of bacterial vaginosis linked to complications of premature birth.
4. Poor hygiene
Pregnant or not, if you do not follow good hygiene practices, the risk of infection will increase. Good feminine hygiene is therefore crucial to avoid infections.
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Tips for Dealing with Vaginal Infections During Pregnancy
The most critical step is to consult a gynecologist, as he or she will be able to accurately diagnose the type of infection and determine the most appropriate treatment for you. You can also do the following:
Depending on the diagnosis, the doctor may prescribe medications such as antifungal creams for yeast infections or antibiotics for bacterial infections. It is essential to follow the treatment regimen prescribed by your doctor.
2. Maintain good vaginal hygiene
Good vaginal hygiene is essential so focus on gentle cleansing with mild, unscented soap and water. Avoid douching, which can disrupt the natural balance of the vagina. Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight, non-breathable fabrics.
3. Stay hydrated
Staying well hydrated helps maintain vaginal health by flushing out toxins and supporting the immune system. Adequate water intake can help prevent urinary tract infections, which can sometimes be associated with vaginal infections.
4. Follow a proper diet
A balanced diet can contribute to overall health, which, in turn, can help the body fight infections. Reducing excessive sugar consumption is particularly important because high blood sugar can encourage yeast overgrowth, says the expert.
5. Have safe sex
If sexually transmitted infections are a concern, ensure sexual partners are tested and practice protected sex. Use barrier methods like condoms to reduce the risk of STIs.
Vaginal infections during pregnancy can impact your baby, potentially leading to premature birth and associated risks like low birth weight and neonatal infections, says the expert. Your baby may be exposed to your vaginal microorganisms during delivery, increasing the risk of neonatal infections.
In severe cases, neonatal sepsis, a serious infection of the blood, may occur. That’s why prompt prenatal care, communicating with doctors about symptoms, and following recommended treatments are essential to minimizing these risks and ensuring your baby’s well-being.