Yeast infections are an annoying problem, but they're unfortunately a common one. They're caused by an imbalance in the vagina, and, according to the Office of Women's Health are "an infection of the vagina that causes itching and burning of the vulva, the area around the vagina. Vaginal yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida". Gah. Not fun. But most women will have a yeast infection at some point in their lives, a lot of us will have multiple — and some people suffer from them a whole lot of the time. So considering so many of us get yeast infections now and again, the big question is, should you stop having sex if you have a yeast infection? Technically, but it's complicated.
They're much rarer pre-puberty and post-menopause, and certain things make you more vulnerable to them, like diabetes or if you've just been on a course of antibiotics. But it's important to remember that they can happen to anyone and they're nothing to be embarrassed about. Plus, they're really easy to treat (most treatments are available from your local drug store, but it's good to talk to your doctor if it's your first one or if it's not going away).
Here's a look at what sex with a yeast infection means for you and what it means for your partner, and then you can take it from there.
What It Means For You:
A yeast infection is not an STI, but it doesn't mean sex is the best idea. Sex isn't going to mean it takes longer to clear up, and according to the Mayo Clinic: "medically speaking, it's OK to have sex when you have a vaginal infection (vaginitis) if the cause isn't a sexually transmitted infection. What's really at stake is your comfort — intercourse might be uncomfortable, even painful, if you have an active vaginal infection."
So sex is probably not gonna feel that fun. Especially if you're feeling self-conscious on top of it all. And even though it's not an STI it can still be spread through sex, which is why you need to know:
What It Means For Your Partner
According to Planned Parenthood, yeast infections can't be sexually transmitted, but genital contact with a large amount of yeast (or bacteria) can affect the body's natural balance, because bacteria is exchanged during sex. "It may be that the bacteria exchanged between partners, especially new partners, may cause an overgrowth of the bacteria that cause bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections in the vagina."
The Office of Women's Health stresses that:
"If your partner is a man, the risk of infection is low. About 15 percent of men get an itchy rash on the penis if they have unprotected sex with a woman who has a yeast infection. If this happens to your partner, he should see a doctor...
If your partner is a woman, she may be at risk. She should be tested and treated if she has any symptoms."
Which is probably why British National Health service recommends "It's best to avoid having sex until you've completed a course of treatment and the infection has cleared up."
Anything Else I Should Know?
OK, if you're someone who suffers from chronic yeast infections, you may find this interesting. A 2003 study by the University of Michigan of almost 150 women looked at the connection between sex and causing yeast infections. The main link they found was between saliva and yeast infections, so cunnilingus may be a culprit. They're not exactly sure why, but they thought that it may be related to the delicate balance of vaginal bacteria and that the "effects of genital washing with saliva — from either the male or the female — might upset this balance". It's only one study, but it's interesting to keep in mind if you're a repeat sufferer.
If you'd like to take a trip down memory lane, watch the sex myths you believed as a child below (and subscribe to Bustle's YouTube page for more videos):
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