How to Prevent a Vaginal Yeast Infection

Between puberty and menopause (and sometimes earlier or later), women are susceptible to vaginal yeast infections. Three out of four women have at least one in their lifetime, and many experience them more often.

Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent these uncomfortable infections if you know the conditions they thrive in.

Vaginal Yeast Infections

A yeast infection starts when a fungus called Candida grows rapidly on the vulva (external female genitalia) and in the vagina. Candida is always present on the vulva and in the vagina, but it usually lives in a mutually beneficial relationship with good bacteria in the area called Lactobacillus.

When the balance of bacteria and yeast is changed, it can cause yeast to grow rapidly, inflaming the vagina. The balance can be affected by things like:

  • Antibiotics
  • Pregnancy or birth control pills
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Weakened immune system
  • Douches or scented soaps or sprays
  • Tight pants or underwear, or underwear that holds moisture

Prevention

Yeast infections are not usually dangerous, but that doesn’t mean they’re not an annoyance. To prevent yeast infections, Womenshealth.gov offers these tips:

  • Change out of wet swimsuits and workout clothes as soon as you can.
  • Do not douche. Douching removes the good bacteria that protect you from infection.
  • Avoid scented feminine products including pads and tampons, deodorant, washes, or sprays.
  • Change tampons, pads, and panty liners often.
  • Do not wear tight underwear, pantyhose, pants, or jeans. These can increase body heat and moisture in your genital area.
  • Wear underwear with a cotton crotch. Cotton keeps you drier and doesn’t hold in warmth and moisture.
  • After using the bathroom, always wipe from front to back.
  • Avoid hot tubs, very hot baths, and scented bubble baths.
  • If you have diabetes, be sure your blood sugar is under control.
  • Be aware of medication you take. Certain drugs can kill the good bacteria your body creates that prevent yeast from overproducing.

Additionally, some research suggests eating plain, non-flavored yogurt with live cultures may help prevent yeast infections because it contains the “good” lactobacillus bacteria. (Select a brand without sugar because yeast loves sugar.) A daily oral probiotic may also be beneficial.

Symptoms

Even if you do your best to prevent a yeast infection, you can still get one. The most common sign you have a yeast infection is severe and constant itchiness in and around the vagina.

Other symptoms may include burning, redness, swelling; pain when you urinate or have sex; or usually a thick white odorless discharge that looks like cottage cheese.

Treatment

You can treat most yeast infections with over-the-counter antifungal creams or suppositories. Additionally, your doctor may also prescribe a single dose oral pill or a topical cream. Be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • It’s your first yeast infection – or you’re not sure that’s what you have
  • You get yeast infections regularly, or
  • The methods above don’t work

Meet the Author

Scott N. Beatse, MD is an OBGYN at Aurora Health Center in Elkhorn, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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