Pregnancy is an indescribably miraculous phenomenon. As a woman, your body has the ability to nurture and protect cells, instinctively providing those cells with the hormones, nutrients and space that allows them to eventually develop into a separate and fully individual human being. Anyone who has felt the gentle thump of a fetus kicking from inside a woman’s belly can attest to the awe-inspiring process of gestation and the power of a woman’s body.
Of course, along with this rose-colored perception of majestic motherhood, real pregnancies produce many less romantic side effects and symptoms: gas, heartburn, swollen feet, bloating, nausea, vomiting, breast pain, mood swings, food cravings and aversions, headaches, backaches and to top it off, bladder and yeast infections!
Yeast infections are unwelcome no matter what life situation you find yourself in. However, during pregnancy not only are they particularly unpleasant but expecting mothers are particularly prone to developing them. Partners of pregnant women often report noticing a slightly sweeter or “fruity” taste of the vagina when conception is first suspected. This additional glycogen (natural sugar) in the vagina is due to higher levels of the hormone estrogen.
According to several sources, “your higher level of estrogen during pregnancy causes your vagina to produce more glycogen, making it even easier for yeast to grow there. Some researchers think estrogen may also have a direct effect on yeast, causing it to grow faster and stick more easily to the walls of the vagina.” (BabyCenter, 2011) Yeast thrives on sugars, meaning the hormonal changes your body undergoes in order to create the perfect growth environment for a fetus also generates a lovely atmosphere for yeast cells to prosper.
Though hormonal changes and weakened immune defenses are the most common culprits for yeast infections during pregnancy, they can also be caused by a number of other factors. A woman can develop the infection if natural protective bacteria in her vagina is wiped out by a course of steroids or antibiotics; if she has diabetes or high blood sugar; from the higher pH levels of blood or semen that might pass through her vagina; or as a result of wearing a swimsuit or some other garment that holds in moisture for an extended period of time.
Yeast infections (also called candidiasis) are identified by unusual clumpy white discharge, itching and burning sensation and a smell reminiscent of bread ingredients. However, these symptoms can also indicate different infections (urinary tract infections, some types of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.) and if regular treatments (homeopathic or pharmacologic) do not alleviate discomfort, you should seek a medical professional’s guidance, especially during pregnancy.
While “a yeast infection won't hurt or affect your developing baby,” (1) pregnant women should not treat their symptoms with oral anti-fungals like flucanazole. Speak first with your health care provider, and proceed with a vaginal treatment only (suppositories and creams are available over the counter).
If your yeast infection is mild or you suspect one is just beginning, there are several simple diet changes you can make to derail yeast growth as well. For example, yogurt is a natural probiotic (it promotes the growth of healthy bacteria) and can be an excellent protector against yeast infections. During pregnancy, when your whole body requires foods that are high in calcium and protein, yogurt-based foods can be extra beneficial.
The elegant recipe below is quick and easy to concoct when you are craving a low-fat, high-energy, baby-boosting snack. Even better -- it is so delicious that no one will ever guess you are eating it to stave off yeast infections ... pregnant or not!
Bruschetta of Cannellini Beans and Yogurt Cheese
(Adopted from www.stonyfield.com/recipes)
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
½ loaf of French bread/baguette, sliced into pieces and brushed with olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups fresh flat Italian parsley, chopped
1 32-oz. container nonfat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1. To make yogurt cheese, place a paper coffee filter in a strainer and fill it with the carton of yogurt. Allow the yogurt to drain for 4-6 hours in the refrigerator. It will yield about 1 cup of cheese (should have a similar consistency as cream cheese).
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
3. In a bowl, whisk together the beans, onions, parsley, oil, lemon juice, and seasonings.
4. Brush bread with olive oil and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until slightly crisp.
5. Spread yogurt cheese onto each slice of toast and spoon the bean salad on top.
6. Serve warm or cool!
This recipe is easy to add to or make variations on! Please share your own versions or yeast infection prevention strategies below!
1. Baby Center LLC. (2011.) “Yeast Infections During Pregnancy.” Illnesses and Infections In Pregnancy.
2. “Causes, Symptoms, Treatments of Yeast Infections During Pregnancy.” http://www.yeastinfectionduringpregnancy.net/
3. WebMD. (June 2010.) “Vaginal Yeast Infections – Topic Overview: Women’s Health.” HealthWise, Inc.
Reviewed August 29, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Malu Banuelos