What do you know about yeast? No, don’t get excited we aren’t diversifying into baking. We’re talking here about straight up yeast infections, also known as 'thrush.' The pesky bacterial infection that will (sometimes - not always) have you scratching your nether regions like it's going out of fashion.
Chances are, if you have a vagina, you have had thrush. While it's nothing to be embarrassed about and is easily treatable, it also is bloody annoying.
"I would have to find creative, hands-free ways to itch myself in public. Like leaning intensely into sharp table corners while maintaining an air of nonchalance," said our LUÜNA woman, Emma, in Hong Kong.
We've so been there.
So, how do I know if I have thrush?!
If you tick most of these boxes, it’s probably time to chat to your doctor:
- Discomfort around your vagina, mostly itching or burning
- White & thick vaginal discharge - think like cottage cheese on your underwear (minus the odor)
- Painful sex
- Stinging sensation while peeing
- Redness or swelling of your vulva
But don’t worry - you’re not alone! Actually, around 75% of women will experience vaginal thrush in their lifetime - many more than once.
According to Dr. Lily Liu, some women may be more prone to thrush. There are various conditions and medications which can result in an imbalance of good & bad bacteria in our bodies - and this is likely to lead to an infection of thrush. These include:
- Antibiotics - these are often blamed for “causing” thrush. While this is not true, they do sometimes target “good” bacteria in our body alongside the “bad” one - leaving us a bit more prone to infections such as thrush
- Poor general health & diet - there isn’t any good evidence that changing your diet will help prevent thrush, although some women find that eating yogurt or other products containing lactobacilli (so-called ‘good’ bacteria), will help
- Stress or being overweight
- Humid weather
- Hormonal changes - these may be increased if you are menstruating, pregnant or taking hormonal contraceptives
- Lowered immune system
How can I get rid of thrush?
Thrush is usually pretty easy to cure - so don’t stress too much! Usually some medicine from the pharmacy or prescribed by your doctor should do the trick.
If it keeps coming back though, you should see your doctor to make sure you’re actually experiencing thrush and not suffering from symptoms of other diseases - such as an STI or diabetes.
Can I prevent thrush?
According to Dr. Lily, some women find preventive measures to be helpful while others don’t see any effect. So although there’s no guarantee it’ll work for you, you might want to try some of the following:
- Change underwear daily and wash underwear in hot water (this destroys fungi)
- Candida likes moist, warm places. So avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing like jeans and pantyhose, and underwear made from synthetic fibers and panty liners
- Avoid douching (we never recommend this btw!), or taking baths with bubble-bath, soap and bath salts, as these can upset the natural balance of the vagina
- Don't clean the skin around your vagina more than once a day. You can use water and a moisturizer as an alternative to soap :)
- Apply moisturizer to the skin around your vagina several times a day. Careful though, this can weaken condoms!
- Keep your immune system strong and healthy by eating a well-balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise, and not smoking
- If you are prescribed antibiotics for any reason, ask your doctor whether you should take anti-fungal medications as a precautionary measure
- If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar levels under control
- Always wipe from front to back after going to the toilet
Can I have sex with thrush?
Yes - thrush is not a sexually transmitted disease. However, it might not feel so great! It’s common to experience burning or stinging during penetration if you have thrush. Lube is your best friend here!
While thrush cannot be passed to your partner - they may experience some redness or irritation after sex. It’s nothing either of you should worry about!
Also you should be careful about the type of medication you’re taking to treat thrush - some vaginal creams can weaken condoms. A good tip may be to wait to apply your medication after you’ve had sex :)