The short answer is no, not directly. You can take a small sigh of relief. Yeast infections are not a direct cause of infertility.
Now if you ask: Can an untreated yeast infection cause infertility? That’s a different story. If your symptoms are left untreated, they can lead to other health issues which may cause infertility.
Yeast infections can also cause irritation and discomfort temporarily. This will make sex less pleasant. But don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place for your concerns because we have answers and solutions for you.
Yeast infections are a common female health issue. About 70% of women report having a vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime. And 8% of women experience recurrent vaginal yeast infections. Keep reading to learn more about yeast infections and fertility.
What are yeast infections?
Vaginal candidiasis is a type of fungal infection, caused by an overgrowth of the Candida fungus. The main culprit behind candidiasis is the pathogenic yeast species called Candida albicans. Close to 90% of the yeast infections are due to this pathogen. Candida albicans is a common fungus that is present in the human body.
You can actually get yeast infections in a few different places in the body. But you most often hear about yeast infections in the vulva.
Yeast is naturally present in your body, but under certain conditions, overgrowth occurs. And that is what leads to the infection.
UTI vs. vaginal infections
What’s the difference? You’re not alone if you’re confused between the two here.
Many people confuse urinary tract infections (UTIs) with yeast infections and other vaginal infections. Probably because they do have some common symptoms. For instance, both could result in pain and irritation in your genital area. The main difference is the area that is targeted by the infection. With a UTI, your urinary system is impacted. But with a yeast infection, your vaginal area is affected.
People also sometimes confuse a yeast infection with bacterial vaginosis (BV). But BV is caused by too much harmful bacteria (rather than fungus) in the vagina. And bacterial vaginosis causes a thinner, fishy-smelling discharge. This is why it’s best to get checked by a doctor. They will be able to do tests to rule out other health conditions.
What causes a yeast infection?
You can get a yeast infection for several different reasons. Below are some of the main risk factors:
Changes in hormone levels can create an environment susceptible to yeast overgrowth. This is especially common during your period, pregnancy, or menopause. Hormonal changes can occur naturally. Or they are a result of hormone therapy or oral supplements containing estrogen.
Using certain antibiotics affects the balance of naturally occurring microorganisms in your body. This includes the number of good bacteria that help regulate yeast growth.
Taking steroids weakens your immune system. This is because they affect cell interactions and alter your microbiome. This then causes your body to struggle to prevent yeast infections.
Higher levels of glucose in the body fuel yeast growth. So people who have uncontrolled diabetes are at higher risk.
When you have open wounds or cuts, they become easy entry points for yeast to thrive. So it’s important to immediately treat open wounds.
Tight clothes and underwear
Yeast flourish in environments that are warm and moist. Wearing tight underwear or other non-breathable clothes will trap moisture. This creates the perfect climate for yeast to grow.
When you have a weakened immune system, you are at a higher risk for a yeast infection. Certain genetic factors may also be at play. This is especially true for women with recurrent yeast infections or other recurrent vaginal infections.
Yeast infection symptoms
By now you must be wondering: How do I know if I have a vaginal yeast infection?
Well, here are some of the tell-tale signs:
- Burning: Feeling a burning sensation in or around your vaginal region is a key sign. It may also cause dysuria (painful urination).
- Pain or itching: The infected area will be quite itchy. This intense itching can also lead to excessive discomfort or pain.
- Swelling: The vulval area is likely to become inflamed which can lead to swelling.
- Abnormal discharge: Your discharge will likely be white, thick, and odorless. Some people compare it to the consistency of cottage cheese.
It’s important to note that most yeast infections do not lead to severe infections. But tracking your cycle and knowing what is normal for your body will help you spot weird symptoms. It’s also possible to have a yeast infection with no noticeable symptoms.
Maybe you’re wondering is it common to get a yeast infection before ovulation? Not necessarily. You can get a yeast infection at any point during your cycle. But symptoms will be more prominent just before your period.
Can you get pregnant with a yeast infection?
The answer here is a bit complex. Yeast infections alone will not cause infertility.
But yeast infections do impact your reproductive system. So if you have a yeast infection that goes untreated, it could cause issues with fertility.
Here are four main ways that a vaginal yeast infection will affect your ability to conceive:
- Sperm movement: Yeast infections affect the makeup of your vaginal flora. This will impact how sperm are able to move (motility) to reach the egg. A 2018 study examined the effects of Candida strains on spermatozoa. They found that the fungi present in yeast infections do negatively affect sperm. Both motility and viability were impacted after 3 hours of incubation.
- Cervical mucus changes: The level of acidity in the vagina (pH) matters when it comes to sperm survival. But yeast infections alter the healthy ph level in the vagina. This hinders sperm viability. If you have a yeast infection, your vaginal ph will most likely be less than 5. Your cervical mucus (CM) also needs to be an optimal consistency for conception. Since yeast infections cause your CM to thicken, it’s harder for sperm to travel.
- Other bacteria present: The natural balance of bacteria in the vagina gets thrown off. This leads to white blood cells (WBC) attacking the intruders in your vagina. You don’t want WBC to attack sperm when you are trying to get pregnant.
- Sexual activity: It is not a good idea to have sex until you treat your symptoms. Having sex with a yeast infection will likely be painful. And obviously, abstaining from sex will prevent your ability to get pregnant.
Yeast infections and pregnancy
Studies indicate that disruptions to the vaginal microbiome can lead to an increased risk of infection and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
One group of researchers did a study of in vitro fertilization (IVF) patients. It revealed that a decrease in the Lactobacillus genus (a classification of good bacteria) was connected to early miscarriage and implantation failure.
Another study found that 80% of their trial patients who had miscarriages also had decreased amounts of Lactobacillus spp. in the vagina.
Researchers are still exploring the relationship between lactobacilli and healthy pregnancy. But it seems that this good bacteria helps create a stable environment free of inflammation for an embryo to thrive. So a yeast infection at conception could pose risks. This genus of bacteria can be impacted when you have a yeast infection.
Having a yeast infection while trying to conceive or while pregnant can be scary. Treatment will be slightly different for you if you are already pregnant. This is because you want to avoid any potential harm to your growing baby.
Effects of a yeast infection on partner
You may be concerned about how your yeast infection will affect your partner. Thankfully, yeast infections are not a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI).
But they can still impact sexual partners. So again, it is best to refrain from sexual intercourse if you or your partner have a yeast infection.
Can males get yeast infections?
Yes, males can get yeast infections too. Again, these types of infections don’t only occur in the female vagina like most people believe. It’s not as common for men to get a yeast infection, but it can happen.
The symptoms (minus the discharge) are the same for men as for women. Men with a yeast infection may experience itching, swelling, or discomfort on their penis or genital area.
Yeast infection management
If you think (or know) you have a yeast infection, you should talk to your doctor or medical professional right away. They can do a test to diagnose the infection and assess the severity of the infection. They will likely recommend you an over-the-counter antifungal medication. Antifungal medications can be taken as a single oral dose (150 mg). Or they can be taken as a vaginal suppository for a 1-day or 3-day regimen.
If you have severe symptoms, they can give you prescription medication. And if you have recurring yeast infections, they may do a more thorough exam and medical history. This will allow them to see if something else may be going on.
Yeast infection management
Thankfully, there are a lot of steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting a yeast infection. Some of these include:
- Maintaining healthy sexual habits: Use condoms and pee after intercourse. This will help flush out potentially harmful bacteria. It also helps in preventing urinary tract infections.
- Maintaining hygiene and vaginal health: Stay away from douches. They mess with your balance of good vs. poor vaginal flora. And be sure to bathe regularly with mild soap and wipe front to back.
- Decrease vaginal wetness: Extra wetness around the vagina increases your risk of developing a yeast infection. So as best as you can, try to reduce additional wetness in this area. For example, if you do a workout and get really sweaty, change into dry clothes. You can also wear a light pad or panty liner to help absorb moisture.
- Following a healthy diet: Say goodbye to poor eating habits. Instead, go for nutrient-dense foods that will boost your immune system. A healthy diet will help you fight off infections. It will also decrease the likelihood of yeast overgrowing.
- Drinking fluids: Staying hydrated helps your body prevent infections. It also helps you maintain your overall health.
- Talking to your doctor about taking probiotics: Probiotics may help your body maintain a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria. Some research suggests that they have the same positive effect for vaginal flora.
Yeast infections and fertility FAQs
Is it normal to get a yeast infection during ovulation?
You can get a yeast infection at any time during your cycle. But vaginal wetness does increase your chances of getting this type of infection. And since you do have increased CM around ovulation, the extra wetness could create conditions for yeast to thrive. That’s why it’s important to keep up with vaginal hygiene.
Can you conceive with a yeast infection?
Yes, you could still get pregnant with a yeast infection. But there are more risks involved because yeast changes your microbiome. Your body may have more challenges with successful implantation if you have an infection.
How do you treat a yeast infection when trying to conceive?
If you get a yeast infection while trying to conceive, talk to your doctor ASAP. They can help you manage the infection with an antifungal treatment. These treatments are safe for pregnancy and conception. Just be sure to follow your doctor’s directions carefully.
Can treating a yeast infection affect conception?
The antifungal medication that you take to treat a yeast infection will not affect conception. However, the underlying fungal infection can affect conception by messing with your balance of good and bad bacteria.
Can a yeast infection affect trying to get pregnant?
Yes, having a yeast infection can affect your ability to get pregnant. Especially for that particular cycle while your bacterial balance is out of whack. This is why getting treatment is critical. Letting a yeast infection go untreated can lead to additional complications in the reproductive tract like inflammation. The good news is that if you treat the infection in a timely manner, it is not likely to affect your fertility long-term.
- A yeast infection is a common type of infection caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the body. It is not the same as a UTI though they have some similar symptoms.
- There are many factors that can lead you to getting a yeast infection. Some are avoidable like wearing tight clothing. Other factors may be out of your hands (like genetic predispositions).
- There are several common signs that you have a yeast infection. These include burning, itching, pain, or unusual vaginal discharge.
- You can get a yeast infection whether you are male or female and in various parts of your body. The infection can be spread to your partner if you have sex.
- Unchecked fungal growth in the vagina can harm your ability to get pregnant. So make sure to consult your doctor right away if you think you have one. Early detection leads to better outcomes.
- Yeast infections are both preventable and easily treated with antifungal medications. Most yeast infections are not severe.