Sunday, July 14, 2024

How to Prevent a Yeast Infection, According to a Doctor

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Yeast infections aren’t the most glamorous topic, but according to Harvard Medical School, an estimated 75 percent of all women will experience at least one at some point in their life. These infections, often characterized by itching, irritation, and thick, white discharge, are caused by an overgrowth of candida (a naturally occurring fungus) in the body. And although yeast infections are common, certain situations can make an infection more likely, such as sitting around in a wet bathing suit or sweaty workout leggings.

The good news for anyone who’s dealt with this irritating condition is that there are plenty of ways to prevent yeast infections. Here, a doctor shares some of her best advice for avoiding infection and staying pain free. Read on to learn how to prevent yeast infections, with expert-approved tips and advice for handling possible triggers (including antibiotics and pregnancy).

Experts Featured in This Article:

Narissa Joyner, MD, is the assistant medical director for Sollis Health.

What Causes Yeast Infections?

Yeast infections are fungal infections caused by an overgrowth of candida, explains Narissa Joyner, MD, which in turn can lead to the characteristic thick white discharge, as well as burning, redness, a rash, or itching and irritation. (Worth noting: yeast infections can occur outside the vagina, in skin folds, armpits, nail beds, and more.) According to Dr. Joyner, there are several factors that could contribute to this kind of infection, including:

  • Warm, moist areas of the body.
  • Damaged skin.
  • Certain medications, such as antibiotics.
  • Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes.
  • A weakened immune system.
  • Hormone changes (particularly elevated estrogen levels).

How to Prevent a Yeast Infection

You can’t always control a yeast infection, but there are some basic practices that can make them less likely. These include strategies to minimize excessive moisture and protect the body’s natural pH (both of which can help prevent a candida overgrowth). More specifically, Dr. Joyner recommends the following:

  • Avoid Tight-Fitting Clothing: Tight clothing can trap warmth and moisture especially around the genitals, which may contribute to yeast infections. Wearing loose clothing, or changing out of tight clothing faster, may help you avoid an infection.
  • Change Out of Wet Clothing: Candida thrives in moisture, which is why it’s helpful to promptly change out of wet swimsuits and exercise clothing.
  • Wear Breathable Underwear: Breathable underwear helps keep moisture at a minimum, which is good for preventing infection, Dr. Joyner says. “Fabrics that breathe, such as natural cotton, is preferable for bras and underwear.”
  • Practice Good Hygiene: One of the best ways to prevent a yeast infection is to keep the genital area clean and dry from any sweat or moisture.
  • Avoid Harsh Soaps: Although hygiene is important, some products can also cause irritation and infection, Dr. Joyner says. “Avoid any practices that can disrupt the pH balance of the vagina (no harsh soaps or douches).” The vagina is mostly self-cleaning.

How to Prevent a Yeast Infection When Taking Antibiotics

According to the Mayo Clinic, although broad-spectrum antibiotics are effective at killing a wide range of bacteria, they can also kill off some of the good bacteria in the vagina, leading to a candida overgrowth. To help prevent this, Dr. Joyner recommends taking a probiotic to “help maintain healthy bacteria in [the] gut and vaginal flora.” If you have a history of recurrent yeast infections, or know you’re more prone to them, Dr. Joyner says you can also speak with your healthcare provider about taking an antifungal medication while on antibiotics.

How to Prevent a Yeast Infection While Pregnant

Pregnancy is another factor that can make a candida overgrowth more likely. This is typically due to hormone changes, which can disrupt the pH balance of the vagina, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although Dr. Joyner notes that yeast infections caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy are difficult to avoid, there are still some things you can do. “Being diligent about prenatal and medical care as well as maintaining best practices for good overall health is helpful,” she says. “For example, keeping blood sugars within range helps keep your body in optimal condition that will prevent yeast infections.” And as always, maintaining good hygiene while pregnant can also help prevent yeast infections.

Chandler Plante is an assistant editor for PS Health & Fitness. Previously, she worked as an editorial assistant for People magazine and contributed to Ladygunn, Millie, and Bustle Digital Group. In her free time, she overshares on the internet, creating content about chronic illness, beauty, and disability.

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