Do you have white patches on your tongue and cheeks? Is your mouth sore and burning? You may be the victim of the opportunistic infection, thrush. Due to depressed immunity, pregnant women are at greater risk of acquiring thrush. Though it is not normally life-altering, thrush can be painfully uncomfortable. To learn more about thrush and how to treat it, continue reading.
Thrush is a common yeast infection that often affects pregnant women whose immunity is low due to the demands of the developing embryo.
Thrush is not life-threatening but can be very painful, and it can cause inadequate nutritional intake.
Painful, creamy white patches on the mucous membrane of the mouth are normally the tell-tell sign of thrush.
Treatment of thrush is important to ensure adequate nutritional intake, especially during pregnancy.
Appropriate oral hygiene and antifungal cream is typically the recommended treatment.
What is thrush?
Thrush very common. It is extremely painful. And it is unpleasant to look at. Did you know that the fungus that causes thrush accounts for 80% of all infections? But what is it exactly? And importantly, how can you get rid of it?
Thrush: an opportunistic infection explained
Thrush is a common yeast infection in the mouth or genital region. It is an opportunistic infection. This means that the fungus abuses its privileges and takes advantage of the opportunity to expand and grow. Let's look at where and how thrush affects the body.
- Mucus membrane. The terminology for the skin that surrounds organs and the lining of bodily canals that open to the outside world. The inside of your mouth and genitals are lined with a mucus membrane.
- Candida albicans. The name of a fungus that naturally lives on the surface of these mucus membranes. Yes, everyone has bacteria and fungus living on their skin. It’s normal and essential for immunity.
- Oral thrush. Also known as oral candidiasis, oral thrush occurs when candida albicans becomes a bit too ambitious and overgrows. When this happens, symptoms are experienced.
Symptoms of oral thrush
Initially, the symptoms of thrush can be undetectable. However, as candida multiples, the symptoms increase. If you wonder if you have thrush, here are some things to look for.
- Creamy white patches of lesions normally on tongue and cheeks
- Lesions are slightly raised with a red border
- Cottage-cheese appearance
- Burning, soreness that can cause difficulty eating and swallowing
- Scant bleeding when patches are rubbed or irritated
- Cottonmouth sensation
- Loss of taste
- Corners of mouth sore and cracked
In cases where oral candidiasis is more severe, lesions can also be seen on the roof of the mouth, on the gums and tonsils, at the back of the throat, and on the esophagus, the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach .
Who is at risk?
Oral thrush is most common in people with suppressed immune systems. When someone’s immunity is low or suppressed, the overseeing, infection-fighting bacteria are outnumbered by the overly ambitious fungus.
Candida is much like pleasant and welcomed children who turn destructive when parents have the flu. Thrush is the destruction and painful devastation which results when candida runs wild. Some examples of probable people who are at risk are the following.
- Pregnant women
- People with HIV, diabetes, or other immunocompromising conditions
- People taking certain medications such as antibiotics, corticosteroids, or chemotherapy
Implications of oral thrush
If the person is immunocompromised, the symptoms can be severe and very difficult to control. For those who suffer from frequent bouts of thrush, malnutrition is a serious problem. However, in healthy individuals, thrush is a minor problem that resolves quickly with treatment.
Treatment options for pregnant women
With the body focusing on developing a baby, pregnant women get the short end of the stick when it comes to immune defense. Nutrients and immunity are being poured into the growing embryo. This shift in the body’s priorities can cause pregnant women to experience the uncomfortable symptoms of thrush.
However, with the body demanding increased nutrients, it is important to promptly respond. Natural and medicinal remedies are available which are also safe for the maturing baby.
Good oral hygiene is the priority. Brushing and flossing twice a day are recommended. A saltwater rinse has been found to decrease pain and help improve the cleanliness of the mouth. Avoid commercial mouthwashes since they can be hard on the natural flora and good bacteria that are fighting to regain oral order and beneficial balance.
Try this simple recipe for a saltwater rinse:
Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of warm water
- Swish for 30 seconds
- Spit out saltwater (don’t swallow)
- Rinse with tap water
Safe medicinal remedies
Making sure pregnant women are able to eat an appropriate amount of nutrition is vital to improved immunity for both baby and mom. Since pain associated with oral candidiasis can impact intake, treating oral thrush is the priority.
If you think you have thrush, contact your healthcare provider. Diagnosis is often made based on an examination and assessment. Blood draws and lab work are not normally necessary.
In some cases, thrush cannot be cured with simple oral hygiene techniques. At this point, your doctor will prescribe a safe antifungal medication to help regulate the fungus. Nystatin and Clotrimazole are antifungal medications that are safe to be taken during pregnancy.
- Nystatin. Widely used and available for application by pastille, mouth wash, and oral suspension. If the mouth wash is prescribed, often the provider will recommend rinsing with the solution four times a day for two weeks.
- Clotrimazole. Another antifungal medication that is often used. It comes as a cream or a lozenge. If thrush is not resolved after the implementation of recommended treatments, a swab of the mouth or a saliva collection can be done to confirm candidiasis or help determine the next course of action.
Thrush often impacts the quality of life for immune-compromised individuals, including pregnant mothers. However, there is good news. It is not life-threatening to the baby or mom and is easily treated. Oral hygiene and antifungal treatment are the recommended remedies. Prompt treatment will guarantee mother and babe don’t fall prey to malnutrition.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Candida infections of the mouth, throat, and esophagus.
- American Pregnancy Association. How to treat thrush during pregnancy.
- StatPearls. Oral candidiasis.