Small Changes Can Help Prevent Vaginal Yeast Infections

Women's Health Update

Vaginal yeast infections are common for some women and infrequent for others. There are some steps you can take and small changes you can make to help prevent them.

A vaginal yeast infection is caused by the fungus Candida albicans, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). The fungus is often found in small amounts in the digestive tract, in the mouth, on the skin, and in the vagina without causing a problem.

Candida and the other germs that live in the vagina are supposed to keep balance among each other. But if the amount of Candida increases, it can cause a yeast infection, according to the NIH.

Candida typically gets out of control and causes a vaginal yeast infection, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s HealthOff Site Icon (OWH), because of:

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy 
  • Using douches
  • A weak immune system from another illness, such as HIV
  • Diabetes with uncontrolled blood sugar
  • Taking antibiotics to treat another infection, especially medications including amoxicillin or steroids
  • Using hormonal birth control with a high dose of estrogen
  • Using vaginal sprays

Though a yeast infection is not considered a sexually transmitted infection – because you can get one without having intercourse – you can get a yeast infection from your sexual partner, according to the OWH.

According to the NIH, symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection could include:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge, which could be a slightly watery, white discharge or a thick, chunky, cottage cheese-like white discharge.
  • Burning and itching of the labia and vagina
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Painful urination
  • Redness and swelling of the vulva (the skin just outside the vagina)

 If you think you have a yeast infection, you should call to make an appointment with your doctor’s office. Your health care provider can determine if you have a yeast infection by doing a pelvic exam, according to the OWH. Depending on the situation and your symptoms, your office might recommend using an at-home, over-the-counter treatment.

Over-the-counter medication you can buy yourself to treat a vaginal yeast infection, according to the NIH, include:

  • Butoconazole
  • Clotrimazole
  • Miconazole
  • Tioconazole

Prescribed medication from your doctor is another option for you to get rid of the infection, according to the NIH. There also is a medication to prevent future yeast infections if you get them often.

With both over-the-counter and prescribed medications make sure to use them as directed and not to stop using the medicine early, even if the symptoms go away, according to the NIH.

There are a few things you can do to help avoid getting future yeast infections. To prevent vaginal yeast infections, the NIH and OWH recommend:

  • Avoid bubble baths
  • Avoid using soap in your vaginal area and instead rinse with or soak in warm water
  • Avoid wearing tight fitting pants, underwear or tights
  • Change out of swimsuits and workout clothes quickly so you are not sitting in a moist outfit
  • Change pads often – and change tampons and panty liners often if you choose to use those
  • Choose underwear that are all cotton or at least have a cotton crotch
  • Do not douche
  • Do not use scented feminine products, including pads, tampons, and sprays
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar controlled
  • Keep your genitals clean and dry
  • Use condoms or dental dams to avoid spreading and catching infections during sex
  • Use pads instead of tampons
  • Wipe from the front to the back when using the bathroom

 For more information about vaginal yeast infections, talk with your doctor or find a physician.