Bacterial Vaginosis and Yeast Infections- Why Are They So Common During Pregnancy?

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A woman’s body goes through tremendous changes during pregnancy, including the increased susceptibility to infections and heightened symptoms of other conditions. As many as 30% of women suffer from bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy, and even more from yeast infections. These two similar conditions should not be left undiagnosed or untreated.

What is Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)?

Bacterial vaginosis is caused when the normal balance of bacteria in a woman’s vagina is disrupted and too much of certain bacterium grows. During pregnancy there is a dramatic shift in hormones and pH levels, which is why pregnant women can be so susceptible to this condition. There is no one certain point of origin or cause as to why some women suffer from BV, but two of the most common underlying circumstances that could contribute are 1) having multiple sex partners, and 2) douching.

Signs and Symptoms of BV

  • Increases in the amount of vaginal discharge
  • Grey or cloudy white, thin, watery discharge
  • A foul odor with the discharge

However, keep in mind that almost half of women with bacterial vaginosis don’t show signs of symptoms.

If you have symptoms of BV you need to be tested with a microscopic sample on a slide to confirm the diagnosis. Pregnant women who have bacterial vaginosis are at increased risks of preterm labor, and possible links have been shown to miscarriages, low birth weight, and the premature rupturing of membranes.

Treatment of bacterial vaginosis can be a two-pronged approach. Your obstetrician may decide to prescribe an oral medication such as Clindamycin, along with a topical mediation. This topical medication can offer relief of uncomfortable symptoms, but it won’t affect other possible complications. Studies are under way to determine whether or not other antibiotics can have an effective role in treating the symptoms of BV. It is important to note that BV can reoccur after the treatment regime has ended.

What Are Yeast Infections?

Yeast infections are common complaints among pregnant women as the changes in the pH balances of the vagina cause a large amount of yeast (naturally occurring Candida albicans) to grow. As a pregnant woman’s body changes and her hormone levels fluctuate, her system might not be able to strike the delicate balance needed for a healthy vagina.

Signs and Symptoms of Yeast Infections

  • Itching, burning, and/or redness in the vaginal area
  • White vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese
  • Increases in the amount of vaginal discharge

If you have these signs and you are pregnant, make sure that you discuss with your doctor the simple test needed to rule out anything more serious than a yeast infection (such as bacterial vaginosis). Fortunately for pregnant women, treatment of yeast infections can be done easily and with little or no risk to the baby. Your provider can prescribe medication that usually relives the symptoms within just a few days.

Resources:

http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/bacterialvaginoses.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm

http://www.mckinley.illinois.edu/handouts/vaginal_discharge.html

 

Dr. Gareth Forde

About Dr. Gareth Forde

An obstetrician-gynecologist, a clinical professor, a researcher, and a father of five—and he delivered them all! He speaks and publishes extensively on maternal and child health issues, where he emphasizes the role of a healthy maternal lifestyle, good nutrition, and breastfeeding on infant development. He chose the field of obstetrics because it is a celebration of life, a happy and exciting profession. “Children are a blessing and they bring joy and laughter to the world,” he says. “I cherish my work, as a doctor and a dad.” The study of genetic imprinting is a major focus of both Dr. Forde’s research and medical practice. This looks at what happens in the womb, how the genes a baby inherits are expressed (turned on and off), and how this influences the child’s health after birth. “This field holds great promise, shedding light on many unsolved mysteries in health and disease from infancy to adulthood,” he adds. Dr. Forde grew up in London, England and Orlando, Florida. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School and is currently pursuing a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to this, he practiced with Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners, a consortium of Saint Mary’s Health Care, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine—where he was a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. He also has a master’s in molecular and cellular biology from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; a Ph.D. in environmental science (computational chemistry) from Jackson State University; and a post-doctoral fellowship in biophysics from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.”