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Birth Control Pills and Yeast Infections: Do They Cause Them?

Kristin Hall

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 9/29/2020

Dealing with a yeast infection can be a frustrating experience. While the birth control pill isn’t directly linked to yeast infections, the hormones contained inside the pill have the potential to make you more likely to develop a yeast infection from another source. 

Below, we’ve explained how yeast infections develop, how the hormones in birth control could make you more susceptible to developing them and other risk factors that increase your odds. 

We’ve also explained what you can do to treat a yeast infection if you notice any of the common symptoms.

How Do Yeast Infections Develop? 

Normally, your vagina contains a mix of healthy bacteria and yeast cells. This balance works to keep your vagina healthy by killing harmful bacteria. Your vagina needs some yeast for optimal health, just like your body needs certain bacteria in order to function properly.

A yeast infection develops when the balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina changes too much in favor of yeast. When a form of yeast called Candida albicans grows excessively in the vagina, it can cause irritation, itching and discharge in the form of a yeast infection.

Yeast infections are very common, affecting up to 75 percent of women at some point in life. They’re also fairly easy to treat, meaning there’s no need to panic if you think you may have developed a yeast infection.

Yeast Infection Symptoms

Yeast infections can cause a range of symptoms, many of which can become more severe as the infection worsens. 

One of the most obvious symptoms of a yeast infection is vaginal discharge. If you’ve developed a yeast infection, you may notice a moist, white/gray discharge from your vagina. This can worsen over time, as the balance of yeast and bacteria in your vagina becomes more severe. 

The vaginal discharge from a yeast infection can vary in consistency. Some people experience a watery, mild discharge, while others experience a discharge with a cottage cheese texture. The discharge from a yeast infection is usually odorless and is often accompanied by other symptoms. 

Other common symptoms of a yeast infection include redness, rash, itchiness and swelling of the vulva. You may also experience a painful, burning sensation during sex or urination.

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What Causes a Yeast Infection? 

A yeast infection develops when the Candida yeast, which is naturally present throughout your body, grows out of control. Some common causes of a yeast infection are:

  • Antibiotics. Certain antibiotics can affect your levels of lactobacillus, a bacteria that your body uses to control the growth of candida and other funguses.

  • A weakened immune system. If you have a health condition that could weaken your immune system, or an external factor such as severe stress or lack of sleep (which can weaken your immune system), you may be more susceptible to a yeast infection.

  • A sugar-rich, low-nutrient diet or diabetes. Yeast thrives in environments that are rich in sugar, meaning you have a higher risk of developing a yeast infection if your diet is high in simple sugars and low in vitamins, minerals and important nutrients. And because diabetes can cause sudden spikes in your blood sugar levels, you're particularly at-risk if you have diabetes.

  • Hormone fluctuations. Fluctuations in your hormones caused by things like the birth control pill can increase your risk of developing a yeast infection. We’ve explained this in greater detail below.

  • Sex. Although yeast infections aren’t a sexually transmitted infection, they can spread through sex. Even small amounts of bacteria from your partner’s penis or fingers can disrupt the bacteria and yeast balance of your vagina, resulting in an infection.

    Sex can also pass your yeast infection on to your partner, meaning it’s best to take a break from sexual activity if you notice any of the symptoms of a yeast infection.

  • Habits and hygiene. Habits like wearing workout clothes for hours after exercise, using certain soaps or detergents, overusing pantyliners or tampons and wearing overly tight underwear can increase your risk of developing a yeast infection.

    Some hygiene habits, such as showering infrequently or wiping from back to front after using the bathroom can also increase your exposure to bacteria and make you more susceptible to yeast infections and other infections, such as urinary tract infections.

Birth Control and Yeast Infections

Birth control pills come in two types. The first type, the combined birth control pill, contains a mix of estrogen and progestin hormones. The second type, the progestin-only pill, contains a single progestin hormone at a lower dose than the combined pill.

The progestin hormones in both the combined and progestin-only pill may increase your risk of developing a yeast infection.

It’s also possible for the estrogen in the combined birth control pill to contribute to the growth of yeast. Estrogen may cause your vagina to produce larger amounts of sugar, feeding the yeast inside your vagina and contributing to the growth of candida. 

All forms of birth control that contain progestin or estrogen hormones can increase your risk of developing a yeast infection. This means you could also have a higher risk if you use the patch, ring, the hormonal IUD or the Depo-Provera® birth control injection. 

Using spermicides and douching may also upset the balance of yeast and bacteria in your vagina, causing overgrowth of yeast and increasing your risk of developing an infection. 

How to Treat a Yeast Infection

Dealing with a yeast infection can be an unpleasant process. Luckily, yeast infections are easy to treat. A variety of over-the-counter and prescription medicines are available to treat yeast infections, from vaginal creams to oral antifungal medications.

If you have a mild yeast infection, your healthcare provider may prescribe an antifungal cream such as clotrimazole, fluconazole, terconazole, miconazole or butoconazole. These medications work by directly targeting the yeast overgrowth to restore optimal balance. 

If you have a severe or persistent yeast infection, your healthcare provider may prescribe an oral antifungal medicine — such as fluconazole — in addition to topical creams or suppositories.

If your use of birth control is leading to persistent yeast infections, your healthcare provider may recommend a different form of birth control that contains a lower dose of hormones, or a non-hormonal form of birth control. 

However, there’s usually no need to change your birth control usage if you only develop yeast infections occasionally.

Finally, your healthcare provider may ask you to keep a diary of possible yeast infection triggers, especially if you get frequent infections. This can help you identify the root cause of your infections and avoid it in the future. 

In Conclusion

Yeast infections are extremely common, affecting about 75 percent of women at some point in their lives. They’re also easy to treat, meaning there’s no need to panic if you notice common symptoms, such as itching or vaginal discharge.

If you suspect your birth control pill is playing a role in your yeast infections, it’s best to bring it up with your healthcare provider. Switching to a pill with a lower dose of hormones, or using a different form or birth control, is often all it takes to bring your yeast infections under control. 

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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