By Jennifer Murrant, naturopath and Kolorex spokesperson  

Thrush, is all too familiar for many women. Estimates show that 75% of women experience this unpleasant fungal infection at least once in their lifetime.

It’s more likely to occur, when circulating oestrogen levels are higher during the menstrual cycle and unfortunately women are more susceptible to thrush during pregnancy.

What causes it?

Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of the  Candida albicans yeast, also known as Candidiasis.  When it’s in healthy balance this yeast co-exists harmoniously with other micro-organisms behaving as a commensal organism – not causing any harm. Sometimes changes in conditions cause an over proliferation of Candida leading to an overgrowth.  The yeast starts acting like an opportunistic pathogen and causes infection.

Unfortunately, women are more susceptible to thrush during pregnancy.

Examples of changes in conditions that lead to Candida overgrowth include dysbiosis (imbalance of micro-organisms within the body); hormonal fluctuations, changes in pH (acidity v alkalinity), uncontrolled blood sugar levels and immune system changes.

Increased levels of oestrogen and progesterone are required to maintain pregnancy.  Higher estrogen levels cause changes in the epithelial lining of the skin, making it more conducive to Candida overgrowth. Synthetic forms of oestrogens, like the oral contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy can also increase susceptibility.   These hormonal changes alter the vaginal pH, which further increases likelihood of thrush.

Uncontrolled blood sugar levels create ideal conditions for Candida to flourish because sugar is more available to feed on. Recurrent Thrush (more than three times) during pregnancy should always be checked out by a doctor, as it could be a sign of Gestational Diabetes.

During pregnancy the immune system changes to make the body more hospitable for the growing baby. These same, normal changes make the immune system less active in fighting off Candida overgrowth – so thrush can occur more easily.

Recurrent Thrush (more than three times) during pregnancy should always be checked out by a doctor, as it could be a sign of Gestational Diabetes.

How to avoid it

All the factors above increase vulnerability to Candida overgrowth it is more important than ever to take preventative measures, including:

  • Avoid / minimise sugar intake
  • Nurture the microbiome, by including probiotic and prebiotic foods
  • Practice stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness
  • Wear natural fibre underwear, such as silk, bamboo or cotton and loose clothing.
  • Avoid staying in wet swimmers or gym clothes for long periods
  • Be extra vigilant with diet if you have Gestational Diabetes
  • Avoid harsh, synthetic chemicals and irritating personal care products, which can further alter pH. Use water and a gentle pH balanced wash specifically for vaginal care
  • Look for topical vaginal care products that contain a herb called Pseudowintera colorata (better known as Horopito). It’s best used in a topical intimate care cream or wash as it’s not recommended in ingestible form during pregnancy. Horopito is a natural herb that supports normal levels of Candida in the vagina, helping it stay balanced and healthy.