Becoming pregnant is something that many women want. Once the journey begins, they start watching their diet, becoming more careful and doing everything they can to ensure that the unborn child is healthy. However, the journey is not always smooth. 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 condition that affects three out of four women at various stages of their lives. That means 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 irritation, discharge and intense itching in the vaginal and vulvar areas, says Dr Swetha MP, Consultant – Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Maternity Hospitals, HRBR Layout, Bengaluru. They affect many women, and some experience recurring episodes. Medications are generally effective in treating vaginal yeast infections, although women with recurring cases may require longer treatment and ongoing care.
Causes of vaginal infections during pregnancy
Vaginal infections during pregnancy can be the result of several factors. Thus, understanding the causes is the first step to protecting the health of mothers and fetuses during this critical period.
1. Hormonal changes
Pregnancy causes hormonal shifts and these can change vaginal pH. Once that happens, the risk of infections increases.
2. Weakened immunity
If you have weak immunity, you will get sick easily. If you’re expecting a mother, 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 typically live in the vagina. Pregnant women face an increased risk of bacterial vaginosis linked to complications of preterm birth.
4. Poor hygiene
Pregnant or not, failure to follow proper hygiene practices increases the risk of infection. Good feminine hygiene is therefore crucial to keep infections at bay.
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Tips to deal with vaginal infections during pregnancy
The most crucial step is to consult a gynecologist as he can 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 fungal infections or antibiotics for bacterial infections. It is crucial to follow the prescribed treatment regimen as 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 vaginal douching as it can disrupt the natural vaginal balance. Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight-fitting, 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 accompanied by vaginal infections.
4. Follow a good diet
A balanced diet can contribute to overall health, which in turn can help the body fight infections. Reducing excessive sugar intake is especially important because elevated blood sugar levels can promote yeast overgrowth, the expert says.
5. Have safe sex
If sexually transmitted infections are a problem, make sure sexual partners are tested and practice safe sex. Using barrier methods such as condoms to reduce the risk of STDs.
Vaginal infections during pregnancy can affect your baby and possibly lead to premature birth and associated risks such as low birth weight and neonatal infections, says 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 bloodstream infection, can occur. Therefore, timely prenatal care, communication with doctors about symptoms, and following recommended treatments are essential to minimize these risks and ensure your baby’s well-being.