Got a problem with recurrent yeast infections? You aren’t alone. About 75% of people with vulvas will experience a yeast infection in their lifetimes and more than 6% will experience repeat infections that come back over and over. Many of these patients report that their yeast infections seem to recur at the same point in their cycle every month. If that sounds familiar, you’re probably wondering why and what you can do to break your cycle of repeat yeast infections. Let’s get into it.
What causes Yeast Infections?
Yeast infections typically occur when something throws off the natural bacterial balance of your vagina. A healthy vagina usually has a pH between 4.0 and 4.5 (slightly acidic) which helps kill foreign bacteria and prevent infection. Anything that causes a change in this normal pH and/or affects a vagina’s naturally-occurring bacteria can lead to a yeast infection. Healthy vaginal bacteria helps keep the amount of yeast (a type of fungus called Candida) in your vagina in check. When that bacteria is changed or disrupted in some way, yeast populations can start growing out of control, leading to that unpleasant burning and itching. The factors that contribute to yeast infections are highly individualized — what causes yeast infections in one person may not in another. That being said, there are a few common causes that you may be familiar with:
It’s safe to say that having any kind of sex introduces a lot of foreign bacteria, and possibly foreign fluids, into your vagina. Condoms and many types of lube contain ingredients that can be irritating, so if you’re prone to yeast infections you’ll want to stay away from scented or flavored products. Semen can also alter the pH of your vagina, as semen has a different pH to protect sperm from the vagina’s acidic environment. This doesn’t mean you have to be celibate to avoid those itchy symptoms! If you find that you’re always getting yeast infections after sex, experiment with switching out the products you’re using for ones that are less irritating, or use a barrier method like a condom or dental dam if you currently aren’t. You can also try making a natural preventative like Boric Acid part of your routine. Boric Acid helps maintain the pH of your vagina to prevent vaginal infections and is particularly effective at handling yeast infections!
Antibiotics are a miracle of modern medicine because of their effectiveness, but the same thing that makes them so useful and powerful can also cause unwanted side effects. Many of us reliably experience diarrhea or other gut issues while taking antibiotics, and this is because they disrupt the good bacteria in our gut, as well as infection-causing bacteria. The same idea applies to the vagina. Antibiotics can often kill off the helpful bacteria we need to keep yeast in check, which in turn leads to a yeast infection. This is such a well-known phenomenon that many doctors will prescribe an antifungal to treat yeast infections at the same time as a round of antibiotics. If this applies to you, be sure to let your doctor know the next time you are prescribed meds for strep throat or bronchitis — your doctor will be able to help!
Horomones: can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. Many people report experiencing an increase in yeast infections after menopause, likely due to the dramatic hormonal changes that occur during this lifestage. Birth control pills can also lead to more yeast infections as they change the natural balance of hormones within your body. Do you know what else can cause hormonal fluctuations? That’s right — your period. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it won’t cause problems! If you’re experiencing monthly yeast infections, your period is likely the culprit.
What Causes a Yeast Infection before your period?
People who are old enough to experience monthly periods (menstruation) are much more likely to experience yeast infections compared to younger people with vaginas who have not yet started menstruating. This is likely due to a number of different factors, but the hormonal changes that bring about menstruation are linked to your vaginal environment and can play a role in increasing yeast infection risk for some people. Yeast infections that occur before your period may be a result of changes in vaginal pH that happen during that time as part of your normal cycle.
What causes a Yeast Infection after your period?
If you are getting yeast infections after your period every month, high levels of estrogen may be to blame. High levels of estrogen can lead to Candida overgrowth and estrogen increases directly after your period. Let’s talk about a few ways you can stop these infections before they start!
How do you treat monthly Yeast Infections?
If you know a yeast infection is on the way, you can take steps to prevent it by avoiding activities that you know could be irritating, like sex, wearing dry cotton undies, and use a preventative like Boric Acid or Reproductive Probiotics. It may take some trial and error to figure out a routine that works for you, but your dedication will pay off! If you can’t seem to crack the code, you can always order prescription antifungals from wisp for fast treatment and message your doctor with questions about your specific situation. They will be your best source of medical information about yeast infections and treatment.