Vaginal yeast infections are a fairly common health condition. They can cause abnormal vaginal discharge, discomfort during urination, and itching and burning in the vaginal area. These symptoms may make it uncomfortable to have sex.
Having sex with a yeast infection can carry risks even if you aren’t showing symptoms. Sexual activity could prolong the infection, allowing symptoms to return. These symptoms may be worse than they were before.
Sexual activity can also transmit the infection from you to your partner.Sex may cause pain and exacerbate other symptoms
Having sex with a yeast infection can be very painful or, at best, extremely uncomfortable.
If your labia or vulva are swollen, you may find skin-to-skin contact to be too rough. Friction may even rub the skin raw.
Penetration can aggravate inflamed tissue, as well as increase itching and irritation. And inserting anything into the vagina — whether it’s a sex toy, finger, or tongue — can introduce new bacteria. This may make your infection more severe.
When you’re aroused, your vagina may begin to self-lubricate. This can add more moisture to an already moist environment, making itching and discharge more pronounced.Sex may pass the infection along to your partner
Although it’s possible to transmit a yeast infection to your partner through sexual activity, the likelihood of this depends on your partner’s anatomy.
If your sexual partner has a penis, they’re less likely to contract a yeast infection from you. About 15 percent of people with a penis that have unprotected sex with a partner who has a vaginal yeast infection will become infected. Those who have an uncircumcised penis are more likely to be affected.
If your sexual partner has a vagina, they may be more susceptible. However, the current medical literature is mixed on how uncommon or likely this actually is. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it can happen, but more clinical studies are needed to determine how or why this happensSex may delay healing
Engaging in sexual activity during a yeast infection can also disrupt your healing process. And if it aggravates your symptoms, it may take longer for you to heal.
If your partner develops a yeast infection after engaging in sexual activity with you, they may pass it back to you during your next sexual encounter. Abstaining until you’ve both successfully healed is the only way to prevent this cycle from continuing.How long does a yeast infection usually last?
If this is your first yeast infection, your doctor will likely prescribe a short course of over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medication. This should clear up the infection within four to seven days.
Most antifungal medications are oil-based. Oil can damage latex and polyisoprene condoms. This means that if you rely on condoms to prevent pregnancy or disease during intercourse, you and your partner may be at risk.
If you opt for alternative treatments, your yeast infection may last several weeks or more. Some women have yeast infections that seem to resolve, but then reoccur soon afterward. These yeast infections may not fully go away without a round of antibiotics and up to six months of maintenance treatments.When to see your doctor
If this is your first time having a yeast infection, see your doctor and get an official diagnosis. Yeast infections can have similar symptoms to other vaginal infections.
Your doctor may recommend an antifungal medication, such as miconazole (Monistat), butoconazole (Gynazole), or terconazole (Terazol). Many of these creams can be used to treat vaginal or penile yeast infections.
If you have lingering symptoms after using an over-the-counter treatment, talk with your doctor about other treatment options.
You should also call your doctor about your yeast infection if:
- You have severe symptoms such as tears or cuts around your vagina and extensive redness and swelling.
- You’ve had four or more yeast infections in the past year.
- You’re pregnant or have diabetes, HIV, or any other condition that affects your immune system.
A vaginal yeast infection (vaginal candidiasis) is caused by an overgrowth of a fungus that naturally lives in your vagina, called Candida albicans.
This overgrowth triggers irritation, inflammation, itching, and painful discharge. Most women experience a yeast infection sometime during their lifetime.
If this is your first time experiencing the symptoms of a yeast infection, you should visit a gynecologist to verify that you actually have a yeast infection and not something else.
But if you have recurring yeast infections, talk to your doctor about other safe ways to try to treat a yeast infection or perhaps prevent reoccurrence.
Some of these remedies use ingredients that you might already have in your home. Their effectiveness varies, and evidence for their success is mostly anecdotal.
The Mayo Clinic mentions that some complementary therapies might provide some relief combined with your doctor’s care.
Keep reading to find out about some popular home remedies for yeast infections.1. Greek yogurt
Probiotics can be effective against C. albicans.
Yogurt can be considered a probiotic because it contains live bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus. These bacteria are essential to creating a healthy environment in your vagina. They can help treat an overgrowth caused by an imbalance.
Confirmed in a 2017 study, eating yogurt helps increase the gut microbiome and can reduce yeast in the body. If you don’t like yogurt, then take probiotics. Probiotics are best taken with food.
Plain Greek yogurt is the best kind to use for this home remedy. Make sure that the yogurt doesn’t contain added sugar, which fuels growth of the Candida fungus.2. Boric acid
Boric acid is a powerful antiseptic that some women claim is useful for treating yeast infections that are resistant to other remedies.
Topical boric acid is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as treatment for vaginal infections. Boric acid vaginal suppositories may also be used with medications to treat vaginal infections.
Boric acid is toxic in large amounts. It can lead to kidney damage, acute failure of the circulatory system, or death if you absorb enough of it. To avoid this, don’t use boric acid on broken skin and don’t take it orally.
If you’re pregnant, you should not use boric acid in any form.
For those with sensitive skin, this may not be a good choice. Discontinue use if any discomfort begins.3. Essential oil of oregano
Common oregano, or Origanum marjoram, is what you usually find in your grocery store’s spice section. The oil of oregano used to treat yeast infections isn’t the same type, however.
Look for oil of oregano made from wild oregano, or Origanum vulgare, like the one here. It contains thymol and carvacrol, which are powerful antifungals.
A 2017 study found oregano essential oil to be effective in altering the growth of C. albicans.
Oil of oregano is a natural blood thinner, so don’t use it (diffused or topically) if you take blood thinners for another health condition. Also don’t use it if you have blood-clotting issues, such as from a vitamin K deficiency.
Remember: Essential oils should not be taken orally. They’re meant to be inhaled as part of aromatherapy. While some studies are examining other ways to use oregano essential oils, at this time it’s recommended that you use it diluted in a carrier oil, such as olive or sweet almond oil.
To use: Mix 3-5 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil. Then, apply it to the skin in massage. It can also be inhaled through a diffuser. Do not apply this essential oil near your vagina4. Probiotic suppositories and supplements
Probiotics help restore the bacteria-yeast balance throughout your body.
If you start a regimen of oral probiotics that contain strains of the Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria, you can bring your digestive tract and vaginal flora back into alignment. Eating yogurt is one way to increase probiotics.
Oral supplements take about 10 days to reach full effect, so some women use probiotics as vaginal suppositories to see results more quickly. If you want to try vaginal probiotics, you can purchase them online.
Probiotic suppositories have also been shown to be effective for treating vaginosis, according to Harvard Health.5. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is a fatty oil derived from the flesh of the coconut. The oil has many health benefits, including antifungal properties.
Studies have shown that coconut oil is effective against C. albicans, making this home remedy one of the few with strong evidence that it actually works.
To treat a vaginal yeast infection using coconut oil, be sure to buy pure, organic coconut oil. You can apply the oil directly to the affected area6. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is an essential oil that’s used to kill fungi, bacteria, and viruses.
A recent study also found tea tree oil to be effective as an antimicrobial and in helping break down the biofilm.
Tea tree oil is incredibly powerful. Make sure to dilute it with a carrier oil, such as jojoba or coconut oil, if it’s going to touch your skin. Already prepared tea tree vaginal suppositories are the best option.
Only use tea tree oil occasionally, and never swallow it. If you have sensitive skin, do not use tea tree oil. Discontinue use if any discomfort occurs.
One popular yeast infection remedy is an apple cider vinegar bath.
Vinegar has many medicinal uses, some more proven by research than others. When you add a half cup of apple cider vinegar to a lukewarm bathtub and soak for 20 minutes, the acidic component of the vinegar can eliminate any harmful microorganisms, including yeast.
An apple cider vinegar bath is not the same as douching, which aims to flush out all bacteria (good and bad) from your vagina. Doing so leaves you more prone to a reoccurrence of the yeast infection. Do not douche with apple cider vinegar.
Vinegar should be diluted in water before touching the skin. You should also consider adding apple cider vinegar to your diet.8. Garlic
In a 2005 lab study, garlic was shown to be an effective Candida killer. But there’s debate over whether it’ll help cure yeast infections outside of a lab setting.
If you’d like to try garlic to treat a yeast infection, add more garlic to your diet. Some websites recommend inserting garlic in the vagina, but burns and significant pain have been reported. You should stick with adding garlic in foods.9. Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a bacteria and yeast-killing antiseptic. Hydrogen peroxide is produced by Lactobacillus bacteria in the vagina and is part of the biological activity against yeast, according to the CDC.
While it won’t work on every species of yeast, some women swear by using hydrogen peroxide topically when they get a yeast infection.
There’s no strong research to support the use of hydrogen peroxide to treat vaginal infections. Do not douche with hydrogen peroxide. Adding it to a bath or diluting in water may help with yeast growing on the genitals.
Diluting (half water and half hydrogen peroxide) is recommended before applying it to your genitals, and don’t use it for an extended period of time10. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an immune system booster. A strong immune system allows your body to bring itself back into balance.
Vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid) has antimicrobial components, so some women add it to their diet to treat Candida overgrowths.
Try increasing your intake of vitamin C to boost your body’s ability to beat the yeast infection. Do not apply the acidic vitamin C to the sensitive vaginal tissue.What to expect
Most home remedies bring relief within a few days. Some may take up to a week.
Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen or if new symptoms appear at any time during treatment. Also call your doctor if you have persistent irritation that’s separate from your yeast infection symptoms.
If your infection goes away with treatment but then returns, contact your doctor for advice. You may need a prescription-strength treatment.Preventing vaginal yeast infections
Follow these tips to help prevent future yeast infections.
- Limit the amount of sugar and processed foods you consume. Yeast thrives on sugar.
- Wear loose-fitting, cotton underwear.
- Don’t spend extended periods of time in wet clothes or bathing suits. Yeast grows in warm, moist environments.
- Only use antibiotics when necessary.
- Don’t use douches unless advised by your doctor and avoid vaginal deodorant sprays and scented vaginal lotions. They may alter the balance of good bacteria and yeast in your vagina.
Home remedies may or may not work to treat your yeast infection. If you use herbs, supplements, or essential oils, be aware that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor these for safety, purity, and quality. Buy from a reputable source.
The effectiveness of a home remedy varies depending on the person, the severity of the infection, and the quality of the treatment used. If you have recurring vaginal infections, talk to your doctor about more natural approaches to preventing and treating this.
Be sure to keep in mind that any product, natural or otherwise, may irritate sensitive vaginal skin. You should stop using the remedy and call your doctor if you experience any irritation or discomfort.Reference:
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Goje O, et al. (2017). Can I have sex when I have a yeast infection?
Muzny, CA, et al. (2014). Lack of evidence for sexual transmission of genital Candida species among women who have sex with women: A mixed methods study. DOI:
Steckelberg J. (2015). Male yeast infection: How can I tell if I have one?
Tobah YB. (2017). Sex during vaginal infection: Is it harmful?
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Written by Annette McDermott — Updated on August 28, 2019
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