Vaginal thrush is a yeast infection caused by the candida species of fungus.
Candida is usually found in the vagina and is harmless, but when it multiplies it can cause an irritation and swelling in the vagina and vulva. In most cases, thrush can be treated effectively.
Thrush is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI) because many people already have a small amount of candida in their bodies. In fact, the organism is actually more common in people who are not sexually active.
However, thrush may occasionally be passed on during sex because the fungus can be transferred from one partner to the other. The infection can also be made worse as a result of irritation around the genital area that sometimes occurs during sexual intercourse.
Thrush occurs in many areas of the body, but especially the vagina, anus and mouth. This article focuses on vaginal thrush. Thrush can cause vaginal irritation and a creamy white discharge, but up to 20% of women do not experience noticeable symptoms.
Vaginal thrush can affect women of any age, but is more common between the ages of around 15 years to 50 years old. It is unusual in girls before they have begun their periods, or in older women after the menopause.
Pregnancy and thrush
If you are pregnant and have thrush (or think you have thrush) you should see your doctor before starting any treatments.
Thrush is treatable during pregnancy, and it’s not uncommon for pregnant women to develop thrush, especially during the third trimester. However, some anti-thrush medicine is not advised for pregnant women. So you are recommended to visit your doctor.
Many babies also develop thrush once they are born. Thrush in babies can be easily treated. Mothers are advised to visit their doctor or ask their health visitor for advice.
About having sex
If you have thrush, you should avoid having sex until the symptoms have cleared up. This is because the symptoms can be spread or be made worse if you continue to have sex whilst you have thrush.
If you do have sex while you are treating the condition, use a condom to ensure that you do not pass the symptoms on to your partner.
Again, if you and your partner get treatment, thrush will usually clear up.
Seek medical advice if:
- the treatment that you are using is not working
- you keep getting thrush despite treatment
- you start to feel unwell, particularly if you think you have a high temperature
- you have a weakened immune system.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your vaginal thrush, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Last reviewed: July 2015