Can You Get a Yeast Infection from Sex?
For women, yeast infections can be a part of life. Statistics show that 3 in every 4 women will experience one at some point throughout their lives. It is a common misconception that yeast infections are Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), as they can occur for a variety of reasons. However, yeast infections can occur because of sexual intercourse. Understanding the various causes of yeast infections can help answer the question Can you get a yeast infection from sex?
What is a Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection is one of the most common infections that Americans experience. While a vaginal yeast infection is the most common and widely known, yeast infections in women can occur in other places in the human body, such as the mouth or armpits. Men can also experience yeast infections, but usually less frequently than their female counterparts.
A vaginal yeast infection, also known as candida vulvovaginitis, is a common infection that many women experience. Yeast infections are not considered STIs and can develop for a variety of reasons. Vaginal yeast infection symptoms can be irritating and uncomfortable, but will usually go away with proper treatment and attention.
Yeast infections can develop because of lifestyle habits, environmental changes, skin-to-skin contact with someone that has a yeast infection, health conditions such as diabetes, and even other cyclical changes in the body. Getting a yeast infection after sex could be due to many reasons, including those further listed in this article.
Yeast Infections in Women
Every woman’s vagina has a delicate balance of live bacteria and yeast cells. When this balance is thrown off, yeast cells can multiply, which leads to a yeast infection in women’s vaginas and vulva. The most common bacteria found in a healthy vagina are Lactobacillus acidophilus and help keep yeast levels in check. These bacteria moderate the growth of yeast cells and help susceptible parts of your body fight off infection. You will most likely notice when this balance is thrown off because overproduction of yeast can cause an array of uncomfortable symptoms.
What Causes a Yeast Infection?
Yeast infections can develop for a variety of reasons. To decide on the best treatment for your yeast infection, it is important to identify the cause. These range from lifestyle choices to pre-existing medical conditions.
Lifestyle Choices That May Cause a Yeast Infection
- Sexual activity – Many women report getting a yeast infection after sexual intercourse. If you can, it is best to clean your genitals after sex to get rid of any foreign bacteria. Men can also develop yeast infections in their genitals (although not usually as frequently as females). In these cases, sexual contact can transmit a yeast infection from one person to another. Be honest with your partner if you have a yeast infection to avoid spreading the infection.
- Poor eating habits – A healthy diet will help protect your body against infection. Changes in diet may weaken your body’s defenses.
- Immense stress – stress can change the balance of your body’s chemistry, which can lead to surprising and uncomfortable physiological changes.
- Tight clothing/new clothing detergent – Wearing tight clothing, especially pants and underwear can restrict airflow to your vagina. Yeast thrive in warm, moist, protected areas. If you find that tight clothing leads to itchiness or discomfort in your genital area, consider wearing more breathable fabrics. New brands of detergent may irritate the sensitive skin in contact with your clothing. If the problem coincides with switching to a new detergent, consider trying a different brand.
- Lack of sleep – A lack of sleep can throw off various functions of your body and in conjunction with other lifestyle changes, can lead to imbalances in bacteria.
- Taking baths – Taking frequent baths can cause yeast infections because they provide a warm, moist environment for yeast. Try switching to showers some of the time if you find that baths irritate your vaginal area.
- Douching – Engaging in douching may cause yeast infections because it disrupts the balance of bacteria and yeast in and around the vaginal area.
- Taking birth control/hormone treatment pills - As your body adjusts to a new regimen of contraceptives or hormone treatment, you may experience yeast infections. With treatment and after adapting to the introduction of hormones, these symptoms should go away.
Cyclical Changes That May Cause a Yeast Infection
- Menopause – Hormonal changes in a woman’s body can throw off that delicate balance between bacteria and yeast. With a drop in estrogen, the skin of your vulva and vagina becomes thinner and weaker. These changes make the skin more sensitive and any irritation can provide breeding ground for bacteria and yeast.
- Pregnancy – Conversely, high estrogen levels associated with yeast infections rise most frequently during pregnancy. These changes in estrogen levels (compounded with lifestyle changes, presumably such as sleep and diet) can weaken the immune system and stimulate the growth of yeast.
- Menstruation – Some women report yeast infections during a certain phase of their menstrual cycle. Hormonal fluctuations are usually to blame. Contact your doctor if symptoms persist or worsen.
Pre-Existing Medical Conditions that May Cause a Yeast Infection
- Diabetes – A 2014 study found a connection between women with Type 2 Diabetes and a likelihood of developing vaginal yeast infections. The study hypothesizes that because yeast feeds off of sugars, an increase in blood sugar levels would also signal an increase in yeast, especially in the vaginal regions. Overproduction of yeast in these cases often led to yeast infections.
- HIV – Women who have HIV may experience more frequent yeast infections because of their weakened immune systems.
Yeast Infections From Sex FAQ
Are yeast infections sexually transmitted?
The short answer is no. Vaginal yeast infections cannot be transmitted solely from sexual contact with someone who has a yeast infection. Getting a yeast infection after sex does not necessarily indicate that your partner had a yeast infection first. In fact, although rare, some women report every time I have sex, I get a yeast infection, regardless of their partner's status.
Can sex cause a yeast infection?
Sex is rarely the only cause of a yeast infection. However, there are three main ways that it might increase your risk:
1. Having sex with someone who has a yeast infection – While yeast infections are not technically sexually transmitted, having unprotected sex with someone who has a yeast infection can in turn increase the quantity of yeast in your genital area. This overgrowth of yeast can develop into a yeast infection. Getting a yeast infection after sex with a partner who has one is not guaranteed. However, practicing safe sex and having open communication with your partner can help you both avoid increasing each other’s risk. Although less frequent, men can also develop genital yeast infections, for many of the same reasons women do.
2. Not cleaning yourself after sex – As mentioned above, yeast thrive in warm, dark, moist environments. Sexual contact can increase the number and variety of bacteria in your genital area, which can throw off the natural balance of bacteria and yeast. It is important to clean up after sex to ensure the health of these sensitive areas.
3. What you’re using – Some types of latex (common condom material) can irritate a woman’s skin, especially in more sensitive areas. If you find that the skin of your vagina and/or vulva is aggravated after sexual intercourse, you may want to try switching the material of the condoms you use. This is also true with soaps, laundry detergents, and fabrics. Any of these things can contain ingredients and chemicals that may irritate your skin. Communicate with your partner if you feel that a change could help alleviate your symptoms.
While sex cannot necessarily cause a vaginal yeast infection, there are several reasons why yeast infections after sex can occur.
How do I protect myself against yeast infections?
Protecting yourself against yeast infections should be a multi-pronged approach:
- Being aware of your body and its changes and cycles
- Maintaining good hygiene habits
- Wearing clothes that lets your skin breathe
- Changing out of damp clothes, such as after the gym or after a swim
- Having a dialogue with your doctor
With proper treatment, yeast infections after sex usually go away within a week. If your symptoms persist or get worse, contact your doctor immediately. A PlushCare doctor can help advise by phone or video chat which steps to take (yes, an online doctor can prescribe medication!). Several symptoms of yeast infection mimic those of other sexually transmitted infections, so it is important to make sure that what you are experiencing is not indicative of a more serious problem.
How do you treat a yeast infection?
Your doctor can help you decide if an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription treatment plan is right for you. Treatments for yeast infections are accessible, easy to use, and include:
- Common OTC treatments are **Monistat, Vagisil, ** and AZO Yeast.
- The most popular prescription brand is Diflucan, which is an antifungal medication usually taken for more serious symptoms of yeast infection.
- Some antifungal home remedies can also alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of a yeast infection.
Your doctor is your best ally in determining which treatment is best for your body and lifestyle.
How PlushCare Works
In today’s age of unpredictable waiting rooms and swamped doctors, online services like PlushCare save you time and stress. All our visits with patients are confidential and convenient and require as little as a phone or video consultation. This can be especially helpful for addressing personal health problems, especially when they are of a sensitive nature.
Our team of medical professionals has extensive experience consulting with patients about their treatment options, including both over the counter and prescription medicines, and can help you understand which method is right for you.
Read more from our Yeast Infection series:
- Symptoms of Yeast Infection in Women
- Yeast Infections in Men: Is it Possible?
- Can Yeast Infections Go Away on Their Own?