This extremely irritating fungal infection of the vulva and vagina, caused by the fungus Candida Albicans.
It is very common during pregnancy because of both the change in your hormonal make-up and the decrease in immunity. Candida albicans is present in the gut in between 25 and 50 per cent of the population, where it causes no problems unless there is a change in its environment allowing it to flourish.
While conventional treatments in the form of antifungal pessaries and creams are usually effective, to reduce your susceptibility or to avoid chronic thrush there are a number of steps you can take:
- reduce your intake of sweet, starchy and refined foods;
- eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, live yoghurt (check the label to make sure it contains acidophilus, the live yoghurt culture), garlic;
- try adding powdered acidophilus, available from health food shops, to your food;
- drink lots of water and herb teas;
- wear only cotton underwear, avoid tights, and wash pants out in mild soap, not detergent, rinsing well without fabric softener;
- go without wearing any pants when it's practical;
- wash and dry your vulva carefully after peeing and making love: sit on the lavatory and pour warm, clean water over your genitals;
- use a condom and lots of lubricating jelly while any infection is clearing up: avoid penetrative intercourse if you are very itchy and sore;
- don't add scented oils to your bath water, or use any form of vaginal deodorant;
- apply live yoghurt to your vulva; you can even insert a mini-tampon or sterilised natural sponge which has been dipped in live yoghurt into your vagina;
- you may be able to get tea-tree oil pessaries from a health store; these are antibacterial and antiviral as well as antifungal.
Even if you are taking these preventative measures, or treating yourself, you should mention any irritation or infection to your midwife or doctor. You may well benefit from a medical diagnosis and conventional treatment as well.
If you use Canesten, available without prescription from your pharmacist, ask your partner you use it as well, to prevent recurrent cross-infection.
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