Can Sex Cause a Yeast Infection?

Yeast infections aren’t an STI, but they can be very irritating and uncomfortable. They can cause vaginal itching, burning, and cottage-cheese-like discharge. Yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) treatments or prescription medication.

Having sex while you have a yeast infection can make symptoms worse, and it can even cause you to pass the infection to your partner during oral or penetrative sex.

It Can Make Your Yeast Infection Worse

A yeast infection is a fungus called Candida albicans that naturally lives in the vagina, mouth and gut. When conditions change, this yeast can grow out of control, causing symptoms such as itching and discharge. Sexual activity can alter the pH balance of the vagina and introduce new bacteria, increasing the risk of an overgrowth of yeast. It can also cause irritation and friction, making symptoms worse.

Yeast infections can be caused by a number of things, including taking antibiotics that kill off the good bacteria in the body. Tight-fitting clothing or underwear can trap moisture and create a warm, moist environment that yeast love. Other risk factors include consuming sugary foods that encourage yeast growth and having multiple sexual partners or engaging in unprotected sex.

The good news is that yeast infections are treatable with over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medications. Symptoms should clear up within a week or two. If you continue to experience itching and discharge after that time, consult a doctor. They will likely do a vaginal exam and take a sample of the yeast infection to test it in the lab. They may recommend that you continue treatment even after your symptoms go away, to prevent a recurrence. This is especially important if you have a partner who can pass the infection to you.

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It Can Make Your Yeast Infection Stick Around Longer

Yeast infections are already uncomfortable, but they can be made worse by sexual activity. Besides the itching, burning and irritation, penetrative sex can cause microtraumas (little cuts) to your clitoris, vaginal opening and vulva, which can extend your symptoms, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Yeast infection medications can also be pushed out from the vagina during sexual activity, which means they won’t be working as well.

Having yeast infection can also be contagious, although it’s rare for people to pass it on to their partners. However, oral sex and penetration with a penis or sex toy can introduce new bacteria to the genital area that can trigger an overgrowth of fungus. This is more likely to happen if the person is uncircumcised, has an impaired immune system or is taking antibiotics for a prolonged time.

If you are dealing with a yeast infection, your doctor may do a vaginal exam and use a cotton swab to get a sample of your discharge to send away for testing. Your doctor can then prescribe an antifungal medication to help clear the infection and prevent it from recurring. Avoid sex until you’ve finished your treatment and your symptoms are gone. You and your partner should also practice safe sex, including using condoms and dental dams during sex and wearing clean, breathable underwear in the vulva area.

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It Can Make Your Yeast Infection Reappear

Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans in the mucous membranes that line your genitals. It’s normal to have small amounts of Candida in these areas, and a healthy immune system usually keeps it from getting out of control. But if something upsets the balance, like excess moisture, antibiotics or pregnancy, Candida can start to overgrow. And that can lead to symptoms like itching, vaginal burning or pain and a cottage-cheese-like white discharge. Yeast infections can also lead to painful urination because they often cause the urethra to become inflamed.

While yeast infections are not considered sexually transmitted, unprotected sex can increase your risk of infection by increasing the amount of bacteria in your genital area and making it easier for Candida to overgrow. In addition, if your partner has a yeast infection, they can pass it to you.

It’s best to avoid sex until your yeast infection is treated and your symptoms are gone. During this time, try to use lots of lubrication to reduce friction in your vulva. You may want to avoid scented lubricants as they can further irritate your sensitive vulva. And you should always use condoms when having sex to protect against both yeast and STI transmission. Lastly, remember to always finish the full course of your OTC or prescription treatment for yeast infection (usually about a week), even if you think you’re better.

It Can Pass Yeast Infections Between Partners

Yeast infections can spread through sexual contact, even when you’re not vaginally intimate. That’s because yeast (Candidia) can also grow in your fingernails, anus, penis, and on sex toys that you use during intercourse. When a woman’s Candida overgrowth reaches her penis or anus, it can cause it to grow in her partner’s body and make him or her develop a yeast infection too.

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In some cases, sex can also trigger yeast infections in other parts of the body because of bacteria or excess moisture. Yeast infections that occur in the mouth or anus are often caused by oral or anal sex with partners who have yeast infections of those areas. Yeast infections that occur on the head of a penis can be caused by anal or oral sex and by using an unsterile lubricant or by having multiple sexual partners.

It’s important to talk with your partner about yeast infection prevention. You can ask your partner to use condoms during sex, avoid using scented products in the genital area, and wash their hands thoroughly before and after sexual activity. You can also ask them to try using a water-based lubricant during sex, rather than glycerine or other lubricants with added fragrances, since these products can disrupt the natural pH balance of your vulva and may make you more susceptible to yeast infections.

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