Q. "What is safe to take during pregnancy to treat a yeast infection? I know about cutting out sugar/carbs but are any over the counter treatments OK? Or other natural remedies? Will the infection hurt the baby at all?"
A. Yeast infections should not be harmful to your baby unless you have one when you are actually birthing your baby. In that case, it could infect your baby as he or she is born, possibly resulting in a yeast infection of the baby's mouth and therefore your nipples, called thrush. If you suspect you have a yeast infection, the following natural solutions may well be enough to self-treat; however, you should not use over the counter medications without your health care provider's go ahead, since they may not be safe for use during pregnancy.
1. Yeast is a dietary-related problem. All of us have yeast residing in our bodies, but it only becomes a problem when it is out of balance. Sugars and carbs "feed" the yeast and can get out of proportion, so that is why it is important to cut out sugar and sugar substitutes if you are struggling with a yeast overgrowth. Aim to satisfy your sweet tooth all (or mostly) from fruit, yet in as small of a quantity as you can stand. Fruit normally is rich in vitamins, so while fructose can also 'feed' yeast, fruit supplies you and baby with important nutrients, so is a smart choice in small quantities for cravings for sweets. Avoid fruit juices, since they are concentrated doses of sugars without the balancing of the pulp and skin which fill you up, naturally limiting over-consumption.
Yeast also loves dairy, so cut down on dairy while treating the yeast infection. During pregnancy, calcium intake is VERY important for your developing baby's bones and teeth, so when you cut down on dairy products, be extra diligent to increase your calcium intake from other sources such as deep green leafy veggies and nourishing herbs such as red raspberry leaf and nettles. (Those two herbs are pregnancy-safe--and indeed nourish you and baby-- and are excellent sources of calcium.)
Increase your garlic intake. A clove of garlic a day is a great anti-fungal.
2. Make sure you are taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin.
3. Take probiotics. During the time of the active infection, eat non-sweetened yogurt several times daily (homemade yogurt is best if you can)--acidophilus capsules are better. Depending on the brand, you can take a fairly high dose, but no matter whether you take yogurt or capsules, and no matter what dose you take, you need to take probiotics daily. If you go with capsules, take the lowest effective dose. If you feel gassy, bloated or nauseous, that's too much, but, again depending on the brand, 4-6 capsules daily is not too much. If you do feel gassy or bloated, decrease your daily dose by one tablet, though it might be hard to gauge if you also have morning sickness! If you have never taken probiotics before, start with the minimum recommended dose on the bottle and increase by one tablet per day, spread out over the day--until your symptoms are gone, you notice side effects, or until you are taking 10 billion organisms per day. Most women should be helped with a dose somewhere between 2 and 5 billion organisms per day.
4. Avoid dampness around the vagina. Dry thoroughly immediately after bathing. You can add yogurt or white vinegar or both to your bath.
5. Treat your spouse at the same time--yeast can infect men and be passed back to wives through intimate contact. Avoid intercourse during this time of the active yeast infection.
6. Pregnancy itself makes yeast overgrowth more likely, but antibiotic use greatly increases the likelihood of yeast infections, both vaginal and nipple yeast infections, called thrush. Avoid antibiotics during the pregnancy and birth if at all possible; they increase the likelihood of thrush afterwards, especially for women prone to yeast infections. Thrush infections make breastfeeding much more uncomfortable!
7. Other more desperate measures: prepare a douche with an unsweetened live culture yogurt (1 T.) to 1 quart water mixture. (Some advocate undiluted yogurt douches--I guess you will need to experiment with what works for you.) You can also use organic, high-quality cottage cheese soaked into a lady's pad and worn inside your underwear. Change several times per day. Use until you have no symptoms for 12 hours. (High-quality cottage cheese also has live cultures in it.) For vaginal itching relief, you can do the same type of soaked pad with yogurt and diluted white vinegar mixture.
Hope you feel better soon! If symptoms persist, make sure to contact your health care provider. All that itches is not necessarily yeast.
Pregnant mamas: make sure to get your D! As we move toward and through another Minnesota winter, it is good to be reminded of the importance of Vitamin D, not only for emotional health, but also for physical health. This article reported on a study of over 42,000 people which showed 13% increased risk for developing multiple sclerosis (MS) later in life if you were born in May vs. a 19% decreased risk if you were born in November--the researchers theorized that the difference in propensity to develop MS may be explained by differing levels of Vitamin D their mothers had while the study subjects were in utero. A major source of Vitamin D is simply exposure to sunlight, obviously something that is difficult to get in Minnesota in the winter. In addition to prenatal vitamin supplements, good nutritional sources of Vitamin D as reported in the article include oily fish, cheese, egg yolks and some kinds of mushrooms. I would add cod liver oil as a good source of Vitamin D. Today's cod liver oils are processed and flavored to remove the icky taste for which it was infamous in days gone by. I use the orange-flavored Nordic Naturals brand--something that has literally changed my life (that's another story). Yes, it is expensive, but you and your baby's health are worth it! I have a brochure about the benefits of cod liver oil for pregnancy and lactation which I would be happy to give to anyone at no cost--just call ahead and stop by our Family Center any afternoon between 2 and 5 pm--but as listed in brief here, some of the benefits of Vitamin D during pregnancy and lactation include:
Caution: To avoid the risk of hemorrhage, women who are taking blood thinners or have blood clotting disorders should not take cod liver oil unless advised to do so by your maternal health care provider.
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