While birth control itself does not cause yeast infections, the hormones that some birth control options contain can increase your risk of getting one. Introducing higher levels of hormones into your body can disrupt the natural balance of your hormones, leading to yeast overgrowth.
What Causes Yeast Overgrowth?
Candida is a common yeast normally found in the vagina in small amounts that does not cause issues until it overgrows. An overgrowth of Candida can attach itself to estrogen and prevent your body from using it, causing those hormone levels to drop. When this occurs, your progesterone levels rise, creating the perfect environment for the yeast to continue growing. Many healthcare professionals believe the estrogen found in several forms of birth control can feed the yeast already present in your vagina and trigger it to overgrow.
What Are the Symptoms of a Yeast Infection?
Most women will experience a yeast infection at some point in their lives, and the symptoms can range from minor to severe. Some women will experience one or two symptoms, while others might experience multiple symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms associated with yeast infections include:
- Vaginal dryness during intercourse.
- Pain during intercourse.
- Burning around the vaginal opening.
- Vaginal itching and general discomfort.
- Swelling or irritation of the vulva and external parts of the vagina.
- White, clumpy, and thick vaginal discharge.
Because these symptoms can be similar to other types of infections, you should consult your healthcare provider to rule out any other issues.
What Can Increase Your Risk of Developing a Yeast Infection?
Birth control alone cannot cause a yeast infection, but when combined with other factors, your risk for developing one might increase. Some other risk factors associated with an increased risk of yeast infection include:
- Failing to get good sleep.
- Eating large amounts of sugar.
- Wearing tight or synthetic garments.
- Staying in a wet bathing suit or clothes.
- Not changing pads or tampons frequently.
- Use products on your skin that can be irritating.
- Uncontrolled stress.
- A weakened immune system.
- Hormonal imbalances around your period.
- Taking certain antibiotics.
Ways to Treat a Yeast Infection at Home
You can treat many yeast infections with over-the-counter (OTC) medications designed to reduce symptoms until the infection clears up on its own, typically within one to two weeks. If your infection is severe or your immune system is weak, the infection can take up to several weeks to resolve. The OTC treatments are antifungal creams that come in one-, three-, or seven-day doses. While the one-day dose will have the strongest concentration, they all take about the same about of time to treat the infection.
Women tolerate most treatments well and only experience minor side effects, such as burning and itching. It is important to note that these antifungal creams will make both diaphragms and condoms ineffective at preventing pregnancy. During treatment, also avoid using tampons until the infection had cleared.
Alternative Methods for Treating Yeast Infections
If you are looking for natural alternatives to treat yeast infections, you might try a number of all-natural remedies that help reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of the infection.
Tea Tree Oil
An essential oil extracted from tea tree leaves, tea tree oil has been used as a method of killing bacteria, viruses, and fungus. You can apply it topically or use it as a vaginal suppository. One of tea tree oil’s benefits is it does not harm the good bacteria in the vagina and can help restore a healthy balance. It is best to dilute the tea tree oil before applying it to sensitive areas such as vaginal tissue.
Boric acid has both antifungal and antiseptic properties. You can use it once a day as a suppository to help treat yeast infections. It’s often the go-to treatment when other antifungal medications have failed. Some people are sensitive to boric acid, as it can irritate the skin, so check with your healthcare provider before trying it.
Yogurt is known for its probiotic properties, which can aid in gut health by encouraging good bacteria to grow. These same probiotics occur naturally in the vagina. Many researchers believe eating yogurt regularly can provide you with the balance you need to prevent yeast from overgrowing in the first place. If you find you get frequent yeast infections, consuming yogurt or taking a probiotic supplement might reduce their frequency or severity.
When to See a Healthcare Professional
If you have used the OTC medication and the infection has not cleared up within a weak, you might need to contact a health provider to get a prescription for oral medication or a prescription-strength antifungal cream. Also contact your provider if you:
- Continue to have abdominal pain.
- Have a fever.
- Notice a strong and unpleasant odor with your vaginal discharge.
- Are diabetic.
- Suspect you have a sexually transmitted infection.
Ways to Prevent Yeast Infections
You can make lifestyle changes to help lower your risk of getting yeast infections, including:
- Wearing cotton underwear.
- Wearing looser pants.
- Changing underwear frequently and ensuring it’s dry.
- Using soaps and detergents that are natural and fragrance-free.
- Adding probiotic-rich foods to your diet.
- Changing pads or tampons frequently.
- Maintaining healthy blood levels.
- Avoiding hot tubs.
- Removing wet clothing immediately.
- Wiping front to back when using the bathroom.
If you get yeast infections frequently, you might want to watch for and record possible triggers, such as certain soaps, so you can avoid these in the future.
While birth control can increase your risk of developing a yeast infection or getting recurrent infections, it is not a direct cause. If you experience recurrent infections, you can contact your healthcare provider to find out if other brands of birth control might better fit your body and your needs.