The FDA Warns That A Common Yeast Infection Drug Can Increase The Risk Of Miscarriage
Yeast infections, which are a common annoyance for many women, are especially common during pregnancy. And new research finds that one of the standard treatments could be dangerous for developing babies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just issued a safety alert for pregnant women about taking the oral prescription drug Diflucan (also known as fluconazole). The FDA cites results from a new Danish study that found there is an increased risk of miscarriage for pregnant women who take Diflucan.
“Patients who are pregnant or actively trying to get pregnant should talk to their health care professionals about alternative treatment options for yeast infections,” the alert states.
Unfortunately, pregnant women are at an increased risk of developing yeast infections, with an estimated 10 percent of women developing them at some point during their pregnancy.
“Yeast infections are more common during pregnancy,” women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D., tells SELF. “The hormonal changes that occur in the body while a woman is pregnant make her more vulnerable to yeast overgrowth because the pH balance in the vagina is affected.”
Fortunately, there are other yeast infection treatments that are safe for pregnant women to use. Lauren Streicher, M.D., an associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, recommends visiting a doctor to confirm that you have a yeast infection, and to determine where it is, since they can occur on the vulva, in the vagina, or in both places—and treatment for each type differs.
Women with a vulvar yeast infection may simply need to use an external cream, while those with a vaginal or vulvovaginal yeast infection will need to use an internal suppository cream. Both treatments are safe for the pregnancy, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While the FDA is only urging caution against Diflucan, Wider recommends steering clear of other oral medications to treat yeast infections to be safe—especially since the CDC only gives the go-ahead for topical yeast infection treatments.
While most women are nervous about taking any kind of medication during pregnancy, Streicher doesn’t advise letting a yeast infection go untreated. It won’t cause harm to the pregnancy—but it will be really uncomfortable. “These are local infections on the vulva and in the vagina—they won’t get into your bloodstream,” she explains. “However, they cause misery.”
She also stresses that it’s important to talk to your doctor first before self-treating what seems to be a yeast infection. Many women think they have a yeast infection when they don’t, and it can be particularly hard to tell the difference when you’re pregnant. During pregnancy, a woman’s vaginal area may undergo changes because of high estrogen levels, Streicher says. That can include swollen and inflammed tissue, which can mimic the signs of a yeast infection.
“Thirty percent of the time, people are treating presumed yeast infections when it’s not,” she says. “Just because you think you have a yeast infection doesn’t mean you do.”
That’s why it’s especially important that pregnant women see their doctor before taking over-the-counter medication. “If you have to go another day or two without treatment while you wait to see your doctor, nothing bad is going to happen,” Streicher says.