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A vaginal yeast infection, also known as candidiasis and vaginal thrush, is a relatively common condition that can be very uncomfortable. It’s common to get a yeast infection after your period.
Hormonal changes, such as the ones you experience during your period, could kill the bacteria living in your vagina and cause a yeast infection.
Most vaginal yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans. However, other strains of Candida can also cause infections. These include:
- Candida glabrata
- Candida parapsilosis
- Candida tropicalis
- Candida krusei
- Cryptococcus neoformans
While vaginal yeast infections can be very uncomfortable, especially after you’ve had your period, they can be treated with medications, particularly antifungal creams.
Your vagina contains bacteria called Lactobacillus bacteria as well as Candida fungi. These work together to keep the vagina healthy. The bacteria keeps the growth of the fungi in check.
If something harms the bacteria and kills it off, the Candida fungi can grow out of control. When this fungus grows out of control, it causes a yeast infection. Antibiotics, for example, can kill off bacteria and lead to a yeast infection.
Hormonal imbalances are linked to yeast infections. People are more likely to get candidiasis if they’re pregnant, on hormonal contraception, and around their period.
This is because it disrupts your body’s natural balance of progesterone and estrogen. High levels of estrogen cause Candida fungi to overgrow.
Because of this, it’s common to get a yeast infection around the time of your period. Some people get yeast infections around the same time of their cycle every month, a condition called cyclic vulvovaginitis.
You might also be particularly susceptible to yeast infections if you:
- recently had a course of antibiotics
- have a condition that suppresses your immune system, such as HIV
- are under a lot of stress, which affects your immune system
- have diabetes
Your doctor might diagnose a yeast infection by asking about your symptoms and medical history. From there, they might perform a pelvic exam and diagnose it by sight.
If your doctor can’t see any of the discharge, they might take a swab from the inside of your vagina to collect cells. They will send this swab to a lab, where it will be examined for yeast strains.
If you have yeast infections often, or if your yeast infection symptoms aren’t clearing up, your doctor will probably order a lab test.
Yeast infections can often be treated at home with over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal medication.
Most OTC treatments for yeast infections are designed to treat Candida albicans, the most common kind of yeast infection. So, if your yeast infection is caused by another strain of fungus, it probably won’t work.
You can’t tell what strain of yeast it is until it’s examined in a lab. So you should see a doctor and ask for a lab test if you have recurrent yeast infections or if you aren’t getting any relief from OTC or home remedies.
The lab test will help the doctor diagnose the strain of yeast that is affecting you. From here, the doctor can prescribe medication for you or advise you on what OTC medication you can take.
You could be prescribed a regimen of an antifungal cream, suppositories, ointments, or oral medication for 14 days. These medications could include:
- butoconazole (Gynazole)
- clotrimazole (Lotrimin)
- fluconazole (Diflucan)
- miconazole (Monistat)
- terconazole (Terazol)
You may need to follow up with your doctor after your symptoms disappear to ensure the medication worked.
There are a few home remedies for vaginal yeast infections. Discuss with your doctor before trying any of these options:
- inserting plain Greek yogurt into your vagina
- applying tea tree oil cream
- taking apple cider vinegar baths
- taking probiotics to promote the growth of healthy bacteria
- inserting coconut oil into your vagina
Most home remedies take a few days to a week to clear up the infection, and may not work at all. It’s best to talk with your doctor if symptoms last for longer than a week.
If you tend to have recurrent yeast infections, there are a few lifestyle changes you can make to avoid them.
- Since antibiotics can kill the bacteria in your vagina, avoid antibiotics unless totally necessary. If you must take an antibiotic, take a probiotic too. You can also eat probiotic foods, like yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha to promote “good” bacteria.
- Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting bottoms and don’t spend too much time in wet bathing suits or sweaty clothing. Yeast thrives in warm, moist environments.
- Soap can irritate the bacteria in the vagina and cause a yeast infection. Remember that your vagina cleans itself. Do not use douches unless your doctor gave you the go-ahead, as douching is linked to complicated forms of yeast infections, according to a
- Avoid washing inside your vagina. Don’t ever use scented soaps to wash your vagina or vulva. Instead, wash your vagina and vulva with warm water.
- Try to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. Yeast depends on sugar to grow, so a high-sugar diet can help yeast thrive.
It’s always best to see a doctor if you have a yeast infection. In some cases, it’s especially important to see a doctor because you’re more likely to have complications.
If you have recurrent yeast infections, or if home remedies and over-the-counter remedies aren’t working, you should see a doctor. You should also contact your healthcare provider if you get yeast infections and you have diabetes or HIV, or if you have another condition that affects your immune system.
You should also see a doctor if you have had more than four yeast infections in the space of one year.
It’s common to get vaginal yeast infections after your period because hormonal fluctuations can affect the environment of your vagina, which can allow yeast to overgrow.
If you get recurrent yeast infections, or if your yeast infections aren’t going away, it’s very important to see a doctor and ask for a lab test.