Vaginal Thrush: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

What is Vaginal Thrush?

Vaginal thrush is a condition caused by the overgrowth of candida albicans, a fungus or yeast that exists naturally in the vagina. Candida can exist in the vagina without causing any harm, but when it becomes overgrown, it results in some uncomfortable symptoms. In about 20% of vaginal thrush cases, no symptoms are experienced.

What Causes Vaginal Thrush?

Vaginal thrush is not a sexually transmitted disease, but is caused by candida overgrowth in the vaginal area. Sometimes the reasons for this is unknown, but some common known causes are:

  • Taking antibiotics
  • Taking the oral contraceptive pill
  • Diabetes
  • Iron deficiency
  • Immune system disorders
  • Hormonal changes due to menstruation, pregnancy or menopause

What Are the Symptoms of Vaginal Thrush?

  • Burning during urination
  • Itching and redness in and around the vagina
  • Grey or white vaginal discharge with a thin or watery consistency
  • Fishy smelling discharge

Treatments for Vaginal Thrush

If you suspect that you have thrush, it’s best to see your doctor to get diagnosed. This will usually involve an examination and swab test.

Vaginal thrush is most commonly treated with an anti-fungal cream (inserted into the vagina), vaginal pessaries or an oral medication (fluconazole). Many of these are available over the counter without a script, but it is advised to see you doctor before proceeding with treatment to confirm a diagnosis. There are other conditions such as bacterial vaginosis (or BV) or dermatitis which can mimic the symptoms of thrush, so it’s important to know what you’re dealing with in order to get treated appropriately.

Thrush & Pregnancy

Vaginal and nipple thrush is common during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester or when breastfeeding. If you are pregnant and suspect that you have thrush, see your doctor to discuss treatment options as many over the counter medications are not suitable for pregnancy.

Preventing Vaginal Thrush

Thrush is quite uncomfortable and can be a recurring condition, so it’s important to do what you can to prevent it!

  • Avoid tight, synthetic clothing and wear natural clothing that allows air flow
  • Change your underwear daily
  • Avoid antibiotics wherever possible
  • Switch to a low dose contraceptive pill
  • Avoid disposable pads and pantyliners and try switching to a menstrual cup or breathable cloth pads. Commercial pads and liners often contain nasty chemicals that irritate the vagina, and create a moist environment where yeast thrives.
  • Take probiotics daily and avoid overly sugary or processed foods to support a good immune system
  • Avoid douching or bathing in bubble baths or with fragranced bath products

FAQs

Will a menstrual cup give me thrush?

Sources:

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/vaginal-thrush

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/vaginal-thrush

https://womhealth.org.au/conditions-and-treatments/thrush-and-other-vaginal-infections-fact-sheet

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/what-causes-vaginal-thrush