How to prevent yeast infections
Vaginal yeast infections are common and most women will get one at some point in their lives. Once you get one, you want to know how to prevent them. Luckily, "less is more" when it comes to prevention.
Now the following recommendations are based on my decade (OK, slightly more) of clinical experience.
I cannot say that all these recommendations are completely evidence-based because frankly there aren't a bunch of great studies on this subject. Truly scientific and controlled studies would be somewhat impossible to do, since we would need a large group of women to have the exact same dietary, physical, and sexual experiences day-to-day.
However, there are some behavioral patterns that I have seen that can help and are worth a try.
Why do yeast infections happen?
We all have good bacteria in the vagina that keep everything in check. When this bacteria gets wiped out, then yeast starts to grow and becomes too much. The key is to keeping the good bacteria. Here's some ways to help to that...
1. Use a gentle soap. (Dove is my absolute favorite)
If you use too harsh of a soap to cleanse yourself, you can wipe out the good bacteria, leaving you more prone to infections.
Don't use any antibacterial soaps in your vagina.
Don't use any soaps with perfumes or dyes.
Just because your soap is "natural" doesn't mean it's not the problem - switch to plain Dove or Ivory soap.
2. Take showers rather than baths.
A gentle shower rather than lingering in dirty water is better for vaginal health.
No irritating bubble baths or bath bombs either
No hot tubs or jacuzzis
3. Let your vagina "breathe".
Wear cotton underwear - no thongs, spandex, leggings, tight jeans for awhile.
Try no underwear at night.
4. Do NOT douche.
You will just flush out all the good bacteria with the bad.
You might feel better for a day or until the infection just comes right back.
Remember you gotta keep the good bacteria in there to prevent yeast infections.
5. Do not put anything in your vagina.
No garlic, yogurt, jade eggs, or any other crazy thing someone suggested.
6. Antibiotics can be a cause.
If you were prescribed antibiotics for some reason, then yes this may have affected the bacteria in your vagina as well.
Just pick up some over-the-counter yeast cream and treat yourself if needed. I would not expect that to be a cause of recurrent infections.
7. It's unlikely your birth control.
People love to blame "Hormones" or "Birth Control" for yeast infections but I have not seen that ever be the problem. We can switch your birth control if you would like, however...
8. Sex IS often the problem.
The physical act of sex can wipe the good bacteria right out.
Especially if your partner wears a condom with spermicide, or maybe he is using too harsh of a soap to clean himself.
So take a break from frequent sex if you need to, or switch condoms or lubrication.
It's OK to wipe or rinse yourself off after sex but less is more.
9. Make sure you don't have any underlying medical conditions that aren't being treated.
There can be other medical conditions, such as diabetes or immunosuppression, that can increase your risk of yeast infections. So if you are getting recurrent yeast infections, discuss this with your healthcare provider.
10. Eating yogurt
"Lactobacillus" is the bacteria that keeps the vagina healthy and this is found in many yogurts. It won't hurt to eat a low-sugar, high-protein greek yogurt containing some lactobacillus daily. There is no evidence that taking probiotic pills will help at all. Putting yogurt directly into your vagina won't help either. (refer back to #5)
More fun facts:
A yeast infection will feel like burning up inside the vagina. Like a constant itch you just have to scratch. It will produce a thick, white, "looks-like-cottage-cheese" discharge.
If that happens, go ahead and treat yourself with an over-the-counter yeast cream like Monistat. It does seem like the 3-day or 7-day cream works better than the one-day.
It's normal to feel a little dry, or a little 'off' for a week or so after treatment, but if burning and discharge is gone, then you've treated it.
If you've treated it, but still do not feel better - or your symptoms were different from what I described - then it's not a yeast infection, so go get checked out.