Can a Yeast Infection Prevent Pregnancy?
It’s estimated that up to 75% of people assigned female at birth (AFAB) will have at least one vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime.  Yeast infections, while uncomfortable, are a very common and treatable condition. Let’s talk more about yeast infections and whether or not they can prevent pregnancy.
What Is a Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection, also known as thrush, is a fungal infection that occurs when too much yeast grows in one area. [1-2] When there is an overgrowth of fungus in the vagina, it can lead to uncomfortable symptoms.
Symptoms of Yeast Infections
Common symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include itching or burning of the vagina or vulva, thick white vaginal discharge, redness and swelling of the vagina and vulva, small cuts or cracks in the skin of the vulva, painful urination, and pain during sex. [1-2] These symptoms are all very similar to those of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other vaginal infections, so be sure to see a healthcare provider for an official diagnosis. It’s also possible for someone to have little or no symptoms during a yeast infection.
Causes of Yeast Infections
Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of naturally occurring bacteria. [1-2] Similar to our gut and other areas of the body, there is a delicate balance of yeast, bacteria, and other organisms. It’s normal and healthy to have a certain level of these “good” bacteria in order to fight off pathogens and “bad” bacteria.  However, certain factors can influence the balance of bacteria, leading to an overgrowth. In the case of yeast infections, a fungus called candida rapidly grows, causing an infection and uncomfortable symptoms. [1-2] Some factors that can influence the balance of bacteria and yeast in the body include antibiotics, birth control pills, pregnancy, a weakened immune system, uncontrolled diabetes, use of certain products, sitting in wet or sweaty clothing, etc.  Learn how lube impacts vaginal health.
Effects of Yeast Infections on Fertility
Not only do yeast infections cause itching, burning, and discomfort around the vulva and vagina, but the treatment and cause of yeast infections can interfere with pregnancy and fertility.
Can a Yeast Infection Prevent Pregnancy?
The presence of a yeast infection is not going to prevent pregnancy directly. A yeast infection should not interfere with ovulation or lower someone’s overall ability to conceive. That being said, a yeast infection may make it more difficult for someone to conceive during a certain period of time. A yeast infection can impact cervical mucus, which can make it more difficult for sperm to travel to the uterus.  A yeast infection can also make sex very uncomfortable, meaning someone may need to avoid sexual activity during their fertile window if they are experiencing a yeast infection.  Learn if you can get pregnant on your period >>
If you are having recurring yeast infections or treatment doesn’t seem to be clearing up your infection, you should speak with a healthcare provider. In some cases, recurrent yeast infections may be associated with underlying conditions, including diabetes, HIV, abnormal hormone levels, and more.  Some of these underlying factors could impact your ability to conceive. Test your hormones or find your fertile window with the women’s fertility test, ovulation test kit, and more.
Yeast Infections Cause Painful Sexual Intercourse
One of the potential symptoms of a yeast infection is pain during sexual intercourse. This is likely a result of the inflammation caused by the overgrowth of candida. [1-2] Naturally, this can throw a wrench in your plans for TTC, especially if you happen to have a yeast infection around the time of ovulation. You should speak with your healthcare provider about whether you should be having sex when treating a yeast infection and what tools may help to make sex more comfortable for you. In some cases, a fertility-friendly lubricant may be a useful tool in the bedroom.
Yeast Infection Treatment Can Interfere with Sperm Transportation
Something to consider when battling a yeast infection while TTC is your treatment. Yeast infections are typically treated using antifungal medications, which can be used orally or topically. [1-2] Topical medications can be used around the vaginal and vulvar area or placed inside the vagina (suppository) with an applicator. Common antifungal medications include miconazole and terconazole. [1-2] Interestingly, there have been some reports that certain topical or suppository medications can interfere with the natural pH levels of the vagina, making it more difficult for sperm to reach the uterus and fertilize an egg. [4-5] If this is a concern for you, ask your provider about oral antifungal medications for yeast infection treatment. Wondering what else can impact reproductive health? Learn if taking Plan B can impact fertility →
Yeast Infections Are Common During Pregnancy
Any hormonal disruptions or changes can increase someone’s risk of developing a yeast infection. [1-2] Examples include birth control pills, normal menstrual cycle changes, and pregnancy. Estrogen levels are particularly high during pregnancy, which can upset the healthy balance of candida in the vagina.  It’s thought that up to a third of pregnant people will have a yeast infection during their pregnancy, and yeast infections are most likely to occur during the second trimester.  Fortunately a yeast infection is not likely to harm a developing fetus and can be treated during pregnancy using topical creams or vaginal suppositories.  Many of these can be found over-the-counter, but it’s always best to consult a provider before taking or using any new medications. 
Natalist's Role in Your Pregnancy Journey
The fertility and pregnancy journey can be complex. It’s normal to have a lot of questions, concerns, and nerves about your reproductive and sexual health. Natalist was founded by doctors and moms who have been in your shoes and are on a mission to provide products and services that take the guesswork out of the fertility journey. Find menstrual cycle supplements, prenatal vitamins for women, postnatal vitamins, and more- all plastic-neutral, evidence-backed, and formulated with your needs in mind. Remember to always consult with a healthcare provider directly when seeking out medical advice or attempting to diagnose, manage, or treat any conditions.
- Vaginal Yeast Infection. Cleveland Clinic. September 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/5019-vaginal-yeast-infection
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Vaginal yeast infection (thrush): Overview. 2019 Jun 19. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK543220/
- Recurrent Yeast Infections. Baylor Medicine. Accessed January 2024. https://www.bcm.edu/healthcare/specialties/obstetrics-and-gynecology/ob-gyn-conditions/recurrent-yeast-infections
- Gulati A, Tiwary AK, Jain S, Moudgil P, Gupta A. Intrasperm Ca2+ modulation and human ejaculated sperm viability: influence of miconazole, clotrimazole and loperamide. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2006;58(8):1145-1151. doi:10.1211/jpp.58.8.0017
- How Can A Thrush Prevent Pregnancy in Women? Nova IVF. Accessed January 2024. https://www.novaivffertility.com/fertility-help/how-can-a-thrush-prevent-pregnancy-in-women
- Aguin, T.J., Sobel, J.D. Vulvovaginal Candidiasis in Pregnancy. Curr Infect Dis Rep 17, 30 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11908-015-0462-0
- Horsager-Boehrer, Robyn. Answers to 6 burning questions about yeast infection during pregnancy. UT Southwestern Medical Center. September 2022. https://utswmed.org/medblog/yeast-infection-pregnant/
Dr. Kenosha Gleaton is board-certified in gynecology and obstetrics and is the Medical Advisor of Natalist. She received her MD from MUSC and completed her residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.Dr. Gleaton is passionate about women, health equity, and mentoring. She is the CEO of The EpiCentre, an OBGYN spa-like practice, and is a Clinical faculty member of Charleston Southern University. She is also a member of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, and the American Association of Professional Women