Can a Menstrual Cup Cause a Yeast Infection?
Yeast infections are seriously unpleasant. As soon as you get a yeast infection, you wonder how it happened and want to do everything you can to prevent it from happening again.
For many menstruators, yeast infections can be linked to changes in the vagina during, before or after menstruation. What causes a yeast infection? Does your menstrual cup cause a yeast infection? Here’s more information:
Your vagina has a healthy balance of bacteria and yeast all the time. When a yeast infection happens, the balance of bacteria and yeast has tipped in yeast’s favor. There are two key players: Lactobacillus and Candida. Lactobacillus bacteria produce acid, which prevents the yeast Candida from overgrowing and causing a yeast infection. If the bacteria are decreased for any reason, yeast can overgrow = yeast infection.
What you do during the day can change the vaginal environment including what you wear and the soap you use. Things you don’t control, like your estrogen level and diabetes, can decrease lactobacillus allowing yeast to overgrow and lead to an infection too.
Causes of a yeast infection:
- Antibiotic use – Can decrease lactobacillus bacteria in your vagina that keep yeast at bay
- Hormones – Changes during pregnancy and menopause, regular menstrual cycle changes
- Uncontrolled diabetes – increase in sugar in mucus membranes can be a place for yeast to grow
- Impaired immune system – A weakened immune system from illness, autoimmune disorders etc.
- Taking oral contraceptives or hormone therapy, which increases estrogen levels
- Douches, vaginal sprays, chemicals on condoms and in pleasure products
- Sex of all styles – Can disrupt balance & yeast can be transmitted from person to person or on an uncleaned object
Symptoms of a yeast infection:
- Itching and discomfort
- Burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina and the vulva
- Pain or burning when you pee
- Pain during sex
- A thick, white, odorless discharge that may be similar to cottage cheese
- Watery discharge
- Infection can progress to cracking and sores
Can a menstrual cup cause a yeast infection?
In general, a menstrual cup is made of medical grade silicone. High-quality silicone is prized because of its inert properties for bacteria. Silicone isn’t a surface that bacteria, or other germs, like to grow on. (1) It does not support microbiological growth. This is one of the main reasons it’s used in sex toys, breast implants, baby bottle nipples, pacifiers and other sterile objects. Silicone is considered so sterile that it’s even used for cataract lenses that get surgically inserted into your eye. (1)
Even in the extremely rare case that someone develops TSS with menstrual cup use, the bacteria grow in the blood and fluid in and on the cup, not on the cup itself.
Menstrual cups and yeast infections?
If you have a yeast infection and you have a reputable cup…it’s not from your menstrual cup. It’s one of the reasons listed above. If you bought a cup that is not made from quality silicone, it may or may not be to blame because it may be more porous or mixed with other materials not so germ-resistant.
If you do have an overgrowth of yeast in your vagina and use your menstrual cup, it is possible to contaminate the cup and reinfect yourself if you don’t properly clean it. Since silicone isn’t a great place for bacterial growth, there would have to be leftover vaginal fluids on the cup on the surface, stem or in the holes. The cup may be visibly coated.
It also possible to have the yeast in your underwear, pads and even your pants if fluid got through to the crotch of whatever you were wearing while yeast was growing.
Yeast dies at 140 degrees F / greater than 60 degrees C (4)
Recently, I started making bread. See the yeast in the photo? That’s from my baking supplies! For a recipe, the temperature to activate yeast is often somewhere between 110 – 130 degrees F. Any hotter and the yeast can die and the bread won’t rise. While it’s not the same yeast, generally yeast dies in hot temperatures.
If you boil your cup the water is certainly hot enough to kill yeast. If you don’t feel comfortable placing your cup in a full-on boiling water you can boil it and let it cool so that it’s hot enough to kill yeast. I boiled ALL of these cups after taking the shot.
What you are using on your cup matters
While the cup itself may not be to blame, the cleanser you are using may. Make sure you are using a cup-safe cleanser free of chemicals and fragrance that can disrupt the healthy bacteria growth in your vagina.
Also, make sure it’s stored in a location where it won’t touch anything germy and has good air flow.
Preventing a yeast infection
Yeast likes to grow in dark, warm, moist places.
Wearing breathable underwear made of cotton can help. Going commando with a nightgown or sleep shirt is a great way to get air flow to your groin. Tight, non-breathable things like pantyhose and tight synthetic underwear are not recommended.
Stay away from soaps, chemicals, douches or other products that go on, in or around your vagina & vulva. They can disrupt the balance of bacteria and yeast leading to an infection.
Many persons swear by probiotics. What are probiotics? They are healthy microorganisms that support digestion and bodily functions. Probiotics are typically in yogurt and in many powders and tablets that can be taken by mouth.
Probiotics containing Lactobacillus, the healthy bacteria in your vagina that keep yeast at bay, is often sought after to prevent yeast infections.
Years ago my Grandma said to “eat yogurt” to prevent yeast infections. What she didn’t know was that the mouth was not the fastest route to get this bacteria to the vagina. Now, there are products that take a more direct route including probiotic vaginal suppositories that get inserted into the vagina however some persons apply plain yogurt with live cultures right to their vulva or vagina. (5)
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So, do menstrual cups cause yeast infections?
It’s not likely. Chances are it’s one of the many other reasons listed above. You can take precautions by cleaning your cup properly, eating well, staying away from chemicals and fragrances and treating the infection, your clothing and cup once it occurs.
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