Can Birth Control Increase Your Risk of Yeast Infections?

Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI on April 26, 2017Written by Emily Cronkleton on April 26, 2017

Does birth control cause yeast infections?

Birth control doesn’t cause yeast infections. However, certain forms of hormonal birth control can increase your risk of developing a yeast infection. This is because the hormones in birth control disturb your body’s natural hormonal balance.

Keep reading to learn why this happens and what you can do about it.

How does hormonal birth control increase your risk?

Many birth control pills, the patch, and the vaginal ring all contain a combination of estrogen and progestin. Progestin is a synthetic version of progesterone.

These methods disrupt your body’s natural balance of estrogen and progesterone. This can lead to yeast overgrowth.

Overgrowth occurs when Candida, a common form of yeast, attaches itself to estrogen. This prevents your body from using the estrogen and eventually drives your estrogen levels down. During this time your progesterone levels may increase.

This is the perfect condition for Candida and bacteria to flourish, which can lead to a yeast infection.

What else can increase your risk of yeast infection?

The type of birth control you use typically isn’t enough to prompt a yeast infection. Several other factors may be involved.

Certain habits may increase your risk:

  • lack of sleep
  • eating excessive amounts of sugar
  • not changing tampons or pads often enough
  • wearing tight, synthetic, or wet garments
  • using irritating bath products, laundry detergent, lubes, or spermicides
  • using a contraceptive sponge

The following medications or conditions may also increase your risk:

  • stress
  • antibiotics
  • weak immune system
  • high blood sugar
  • hormonal imbalance near your menstrual cycle
  • pregnancy

How to treat a yeast infection at home

There are several over-the-counter (OTC) medications that you can use to ease your symptoms. With treatment, most yeast infections clear up in one to two weeks.

This may take longer if your immune system is weak from other illnesses or if your infection is more severe.

OTC antifungal creams generally come in one-, three-, and seven-day doses. The one-day dose is the strongest concentration. The 3-day dose is a lower concentration, and the 7-day dose is the weakest. Whatever dose you take, the cure time will be the same.

You should be better in three days. If the symptoms last more than seven days, you should see a doctor. Always take the full course of any medication, even if you start feeling better before it’s finished.

Common OTC antifungal creams include:

Possible side effects include mild burning and itching.

You should avoid sexual activity while you’re using the medication. In addition to aggravating your symptoms, antifungal medications can render condoms and diaphragms ineffective.

You should also hold off on using tampons until the infection is completely gone.

When to see your doctor

If your symptoms haven’t cleared after seven days of using OTC medication, see your doctor. A prescription-strength antifungal cream may be necessary. You doctor may also prescribe oral fluconazole (Diflucan) to help clear the infection.

Antibiotics harm both good and bad bacteria, so they will only be prescribed as a last resort.

If you’re experiencing chronic yeast infections, you may need to stop taking hormonal birth control. Your doctor can help you devise a plan to get your body back to its normal healthy balance. They can also help you explore other options for birth control.

You should also see a doctor if you:

  • have abdominal pain
  • have a fever
  • have vaginal discharge with a strong, unpleasant odor
  • have diabetes
  • have HIV
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding

Learn more: Can you use coconut oil to treat a yeast infection? »

What you can do now

Your yeast infection should heal within a week, depending on the type of treatment you use and how quickly your body responds. In some cases, you may continue to experience symptoms for up to two weeks, but you should see your doctor after seven days.

Of the hormonal birth control options available, the vaginal ring carries the lowest risk for increased yeast infections. This is because it has a lower hormone level. Talk to your doctor about whether this is an option for you.

You can also try switching to a low-dose oral contraceptive. Popular options include:

  • Apri
  • Aviane
  • Levlen 21
  • Levora
  • Lo/Ovral
  • Ortho-Novum
  • Yasmin
  • Yaz

You can also take a pill that contains only progestin, known as the minipill.

Some options include:

  • Camila
  • Errin
  • Heather
  • Jolivette
  • Micronor
  • Nora-BE

Learn more about the birth control pills available »

How to prevent future yeast infections

Certain lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk for yeast infections.

You can:

  • Wear loose fitting cotton clothing and underwear.
  • Change underwear often and keep pelvic area dry.
  • Use natural soaps and laundry detergent.
  • Avoid douching.
  • Eat foods rich in probiotics.
  • Change pads and tampons often.
  • Keep blood sugar levels under control.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
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