Can You Have Sex with a Yeast Infection?
Good news: It's not dangerous to have sex with a yeast infection, but there are a bunch of reasons you probably won't want to anyway.
If you've had a yeast infection before—and chances are you have, because 75 percent of women will have at least one in her lifetime—you know they're about as pleasant as, well, accidentally ingesting moldy bread.
These incredibly common infections are caused by a fungus (called candida albicans) that's normally present in the vagina, explains Rob Huizenga, M.D., internist and associate professor of clinical medicine at UCLA and author of Sex, Lies & STDs. "A yeast infection happens when the vagina becomes more acidic, which allows the fungus to overgrow."
For most women, this occurs when the vaginal pH is disrupted. This usually happens from taking antibiotics (which kills off the healthy bacteria in the vagina), changes in hormonal levels (which could be caused from birth control, getting pregnant, or stress), or using scented body wash and soap, says Dr. Huizenga. In some cases, it can be caused by uncontrolled diabetes or a weakened immune system. "And some women who get yeast infections have no distinguishable precipitating factors," he says. (Related: These Are the Best Ways to Test for a Yeast Infection).
Usually, the symptoms aren't subtle. "Some combination of labial itching, white 'cottage cheese' discharge, discomfort with urination, vaginal soreness, swelling, redness, and pain with intercourse are common signs of a yeast infection," says Dr. Huizenga. Funnn.
But if your symptoms aren't all that bad—or you try to have sex before you realize what's going on down there—it's worth asking: Is safe to have sex with a yeast infection?
Yeast Infections ≠ STI
First things first: "Yeast infections are not considered a sexually transmitted disease or infection," says Maria Cris Munoz, M.D., ob-gyn and associate professor at the UNC School of Medicine. "You can get one without ever having had sex and when you're not sexually active."
However, some women may notice that they're more prone to yeast infections when they're sexually active because things like sensitivity to condoms, your partner's sperm, sweat, saliva, or lube could throw off your pH. (See: How Your New Sexual Partner Could Be Messing With Your Vagina).
That said, "frequent sexual activity and having multiple sexual partners does not increase the risk or number of vaginal yeast infections a woman has," says Dr. Huizenga.
Yeast Infections Can Be Contagious
While a yeast infection is not an STI, you can still pass to your partner vaginally, orally, or anally.
"About 10 to 15 percent of men who have sex with someone with a yeast infection will end up with yeast balanitis," says Huizenga. "Yeast balanitis are red patchy areas on the glans of the penis and under the foreskin that are often mistaken for herpes." If your partner's penis starts to look splotchy or red, they should see a doctor who can prescribe a topical anti-fungal that'll clear the yeast right up.
If your partner is a woman, she may be at risk of contracting the infection as well, according to the Office of Women's Health. While research hasn't concluded how likely transmission is, if she starts to experience symptoms of a yeast infection, she probably has one too and should head to the doc ASAP. (Here's a Step-By-Step Guide to Curing a Vaginal Yeast Infection).
Receiving oral sex when you have a yeast infection can also give your partner oral thrush, which Dr. Munoz says is an uncomfortable white coating on the mouth and tongue.
If your partner does get a yeast infection and you're not both properly treated, you could end up just passing the same yeast infection back and forth to each other, says Kecia Gaither, M.D., ob-gyn and director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln. Yikes. (BTW, please never try these yeast infection home remedies.)
So, in the off chance that your vagina isn't in discomfort or pain, you can have sex—but should use protection, says Dr. Huizenga. "If you properly use a condom or dental dam, your chances of transferring the infection are zero," says Dr. Huizenga.
Note that topical yeast infection medications (like miconazole cream, aka Monistat) are oil-based products that can weaken latex condoms and limit their effectiveness as birth control, says Dr.Huizenga. *Insert siren emoji*. "An alternate birth control method should be used in conjunction with the condom, to prevent pregnancy," he says. (FYI: Your doctor can prescribe you an oral antifungal, such as Diflucan, which can treat your yeast infection, but won't interfere with latex in the same dangerous way as a topical treatment.)
Other Reasons Not to Have Sex with a Yeast Infection
It's worth repeating: "Usually, if you have is a yeast infection, the vaginal canal tissue is sore and inflamed, so having sex will be very painful," says Dr. Munoz.
If the possible discomfort and risk of passing the infection to your partner aren't enough to convince you to press pause on your sexcapades, consider this: "Sex with a yeast infection could slow the healing process," says Dr. Gaither. "The vaginal walls are already irritated, and the friction of penetrative intercourse can cause small micro abrasions making the inflammation and symptoms worse." What's more, these tears can lead to an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, she says. Ugh.
So...Can You Have Sex With A Yeast Infection??
Dr. Gaither's suggestion is to refrain from sex until you're thoroughly treated and healed.
But having sex when you have a yeast infection isn't dangerous, per se, and if you have protected sex, you're not at risk of passing the infection onto your partner. So, if you really really really want to have sex, you technically can—just know the pain and impact on healing mentioned above.
Remember: As un-fun as it may be to abstain from getting frisky for a few days, dealing with a yeast infection for even a day longer because of sex is even less fun. So maybe stick to kissing for a few little while—it may feel like you're back in middle school, but at least there are some serious health benefits of locking lips.