Vaginal infection during pregnancy: Here’s what to do

Getting pregnant is something that many women wish for. Once the journey begins, they start watching their diet, become more careful and do everything to make sure the unborn child is healthy. The journey, however, may not always be smooth. Some women may end up facing vaginal infections. Going by a 2009 study published in the US National Library of Medicine, vaginal yeast infection is a common ailment that affects three out of four women in different stages of their lives. That means vaginal infection during pregnancy is possible too. An expert shares the causes and what to do if you have 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 M.P, Consultant – Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, HRBR Layout, Bengaluru. They affect many women, with some facing recurrent episodes. Medications are typically effective in treating vaginal yeast infections, although women with recurring cases may require extended treatment and ongoing care.

Pregnant woman
Vaginal infections during pregnancy is common. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

Causes of vaginal infections during pregnancy

Vaginal infections during pregnancy can result from various factors, so understanding the causes is the first step to safeguard maternal and fetal health during this critical period.

1. Hormonal changes

Pregnancy induces hormonal shifts, and they can alter vaginal pH. Once that happens, chances of getting infections go up.

2. Weakened immunity

When you have weak immunity, you fall sick easily. In case of expecting moms, pregnancy-related immune changes can reduce the body’s ability to combat infections, says Dr Swetha.

3. Bacterial vaginosis

This happens when there is an overgrowth of bacteria that generally lives in the vagina. Pregnant women face increased bacterial vaginosis risk that is linked to preterm birth complications.

4. Poor hygiene

Pregnant or not, if you don’t follow proper hygiene practices, infection risk will go up. So, proper feminine hygiene is crucial to keep infections at bay.

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Tips to deal with vaginal infections during pregnancy

The most critical step is to consult a gynecologist, as they can accurately diagnose the type of infection and determine the most suitable treatment for you. You can also do the following:

1. Medication

Depending on the diagnosis, doctor may prescribe medications such as antifungal creams for yeast infections or antibiotics for bacterial infections. It’s crucial to follow the prescribed treatment regimen as directed by your doctor.

2. Maintain proper vaginal hygiene

Proper vaginal hygiene is essential, and so focus on gentle cleansing with mild, unscented soap and water. Avoid vaginal douching, which can disrupt the natural vaginal balance. Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight-fitting, non-breathable fabrics.

3. Stay hydrated

Staying well-hydrated helps to maintain vaginal health by flushing out toxins and supporting the immune system. Adequate water intake can aid in preventing urinary tract infections, which may 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 intake is particularly important because elevated blood sugar levels can promote yeast overgrowth, says the expert.

Watermelon for pregnancy
Eat well during pregnancy to prevent vaginal infections. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

5. Have safe sex

If sexually transmitted infections are a concern, ensure that sexual partners are tested and practice safe sex. Using barrier methods like condoms to reduce the risk of STIs.

Vaginal infections during pregnancy can impact your baby, potentially leading to preterm birth and associated risks like low birth weight and neonatal infections, says the expert. Your baby may be exposed to your vaginal microorganisms during childbirth, increasing the risk of neonatal infections.

In severe cases, neonatal sepsis, a serious bloodstream infection, can occur. That’s why 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.

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