Is sex an option?

Vaginal yeast infections are a fairly common health condition. They can cause abnormal vaginal discharge, discomfort during urination, and itching and burning in the vaginal area. These symptoms may make it uncomfortable to have sex.

Having sex with a yeast infection can carry risks even if you aren’t showing symptoms. Sexual activity could prolong the infection, allowing symptoms to return. These symptoms may be worse than they were before.

Sexual activity can also transmit the infection from you to your partner.

Sex may cause pain and exacerbate other symptoms

Having sex with a yeast infection can be very painful or, at best, extremely uncomfortable.

If your labia or vulva are swollen, you may find skin-to-skin contact to be too rough. Friction may even rub the skin raw.

Penetration can aggravate inflamed tissue, as well as increase itching and irritation. And inserting anything into the vagina — whether it’s a sex toy, finger, or tongue — can introduce new bacteria. This may make your infection more severe.

When you’re aroused, your vagina may begin to self-lubricate. This can add more moisture to an already moist environment, making itching and discharge more pronounced.

Sex may pass the infection along to your partner

Although it’s possible to transmit a yeast infection to your partner through sexual activity, the likelihood of this depends on your partner’s anatomy.

If your sexual partner has a penis, they’re less likely to contract a yeast infection from you. About 15 percent of people with a penis that have unprotected sex with a partner who has a vaginal yeast infection will become infected. Those who have an uncircumcised penis are more likely to be affected.

If your sexual partner has a vagina, they may be more susceptible. However, the current medical literature is mixed on how uncommon or likely this actually is. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it can happen, but more clinical studies are needed to determine how or why this happens.

Sex may delay healing

Engaging in sexual activity during a yeast infection can also disrupt your healing process. And if it aggravates your symptoms, it may take longer for you to heal.

If your partner develops a yeast infection after engaging in sexual activity with you, they may pass it back to you during your next sexual encounter. Abstaining until you’ve both successfully healed is the only way to prevent this cycle from continuing.

How long does a yeast infection usually last?

If this is your first yeast infection, your doctor will likely prescribe a short course of over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medication. This should clear up the infection within four to seven days.

Most antifungal medications are oil-based. Oil can damage latex and polyisoprene condoms. This means that if you rely on condoms to prevent pregnancy or disease during intercourse, you and your partner may be at risk.

If you opt for alternative treatments, your yeast infection may last several weeks or more. Some women have yeast infections that seem to resolve, but then reoccur soon afterward. These yeast infections may not fully go away without a round of antibiotics and up to six months of maintenance treatments.

When to see your doctor

If this is your first time having a yeast infection, see your doctor and get an official diagnosis. Yeast infections can have similar symptoms to other vaginal infections.

Your doctor may recommend an antifungal medication, such as miconazole (Monistat), butoconazole (Gynazole), or terconazole (Terazol). Many of these creams can be used to treat vaginal or penile yeast infections.

If you have lingering symptoms after using an over-the-counter treatment, talk with your doctor about other treatment options.

You should also call your doctor about your yeast infection if:

  • You have severe symptoms such as tears or cuts around your vagina and extensive redness and swelling.
  • You’ve had four or more yeast infections in the past year.
  • You’re pregnant or have diabetes, HIV, or any other condition that affects your immune system.