A yeast infection is a fungal infection that affects the vagina. Yeast lives in the body normally and usually stays under control, but when something disrupts this balance, yeast can overgrow and cause symptoms.
It’s important to wait until a yeast infection is treated and the symptoms have cleared up before having sex. This will ensure that the fungus is not spread to your partner.
It’s normal for a small amount of yeast (Candida albicans) to live in the mucous membranes lining the genitals, but the healthy balance can be disrupted, and an infection results. The symptoms include a whitish-yellowish vaginal discharge that can be watery or chunky, and itching and burning in the vulva. If the infection is not treated, it may spread to the anus or mouth and cause pain during sex.
It is possible for a man to infect a woman with thrush, which can then be transmitted by oral sex to the vulva and anus. Oral sex can also lead to an STI called trichomoniasis, which is an infection of the cervix and/or vulva.
Yeast infections usually last for about three to five days, but you should wait until all of your symptoms are gone before engaging in sexual activity. You should also wait until you’ve finished the full course of treatment, even if your symptoms improve before then. You can help prevent recurring infections by practicing good hygiene, including washing the genitals with mild soap and water and drying them thoroughly after each use, wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear, avoiding scented products in the genital area, and avoiding douching. Yeast infections can occur more often in women because of hormone changes, antibiotics, and certain health conditions such as diabetes or cancer.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question because the time you should wait depends on your infection, how severe it is, and how you treated it. However, a doctor can help you decide whether or not it is safe for you to resume sexual activity once your yeast infection has cleared up. The doctor will first take a sample of your vaginal fluid with a cotton swab and send it to a laboratory for analysis. The results will tell the doctor if it is an overgrowth of Candida or another infection like a urinary tract infection or an STI.
A doctor will also recommend a course of over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medication. This is designed to kill the yeast and relieve symptoms of a yeast infection. This will typically last four to seven days. You will want to be sure you have completed the entire treatment before trying to have sex again.
Sex could make your symptoms feel worse because the act of penetration can irritate the lining of your vagina, leading to itching and inflammation. It can also cause micro-tears, which can introduce bacteria and allow illness-causing pathogens to enter your body, explains an ob-gyn at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
In addition, sex can interrupt the process of a yeast infection treatment because penetrative acts can push creams or ointments right out of your body. You should also avoid using any type of lubricant during sex because oils can damage latex condoms and diaphragms, making them less effective.
Luckily, most yeast infections are treatable and preventable with over-the-counter and prescription medications and hygiene measures. But there are other things you can do to improve your chances of getting infected, including being uncircumcised (the moist environment under the penis is ideal for a yeast overgrowth), having diabetes (the excess glucose is yeast’s favorite food) and using antibiotics frequently (it knocks out the genital area’s natural bacteria).
When it comes to prevention, it’s a good idea to avoid tight-fitting clothing in the vaginal area and use a lubricant that’s free of glycerine, which disrupts the microbiome and causes symptoms. You should also wipe from front to back when you go to the bathroom, wear cotton underwear and change it regularly, and wash your genitals often with warm water and soap. Avoid scented products in the genital area, since these can cause irritation and are difficult to rinse off completely.
And it’s worth noting that yeast isn’t contagious in the sense of spreading an STI like herpes or chlamydia, which you can actually pass back and forth between partners. But if you have unprotected oral or penetrative sex while you’re dealing with a yeast infection, it’s possible that you could spread the organism to your partner’s genitals, mouth and intestines, which can then cause them to develop an overgrowth of their own.
Most yeast infections go away in a few days to a week after treatment. But if the symptoms aren’t clearing up, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may do a physical exam and run lab tests to find out what’s causing the infection and how long it will take for you to get better. It’s important to finish the whole course of medication to make sure the infection is completely gone.
Most vaginal yeast infection treatments come in the form of creams or suppositories. They are generally oil-based and can weaken latex condoms and diaphragms, so you should not have sex until the medicine is finished and your symptoms are gone.
Oral antifungal medications such as clotrimazole (Monistat 3) and terconazole (Diflucan) are also effective in treating a yeast infection. Unlike most topical treatments, these pills are not oil-based and should not weaken latex condoms or diaphragms. Yeast infections that don’t respond to over-the-counter medicines can often be treated by your health care provider with prescription medications such as fluconazole (Diflucan).
Even if the symptoms of a yeast infection clear up, you still shouldn’t have sex until you are done with treatment and the yeast is completely gone from your body. Yeast infections are contagious, so you could pass the infection to your partner if you have unprotected oral or penetrative sex while you are infected.