Why do I keep getting yeast infections?! Is there anything I can do to prevent them?

Great question. Yeast infections are both very common and super irritating (literally!), especially if you’re dealing with them frequently. To figure out ways to combat them, it helps to understand why they occur. Everyone has some yeast in their bodies, especially in warm and moist areas like the mouth and the vagina. When the balance of good bacteria in your body keeping the yeast in check is thrown out of whack—which can be because of hormonal changes, antibiotics, or a ton of other factors–you experience an overgrowth of yeast. This causes the annoying symptoms of a yeast infection, which usually include vaginal itching, irritation, and a white discharge.

Once you already have a yeast infection, you have a few options for treatment. You can go the drugstore and buy over-the-counter creams and vaginal suppositories that treat yeast infections within 3-7 days. Some people don’t like to use these creams because they can be a little messy or awkward, but they get the job done without visiting a doctor’s office. Another option is a one-dose-pill, Fluconazole, which you can get through a medical provider. This method tends to be the quickest way to treat your yeast infection, but it does require a prescription which can be a barrier.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick-fix to preventing yeast infections forever. It’s most effective to take a holistic approach to bringing your body into balance. Simple steps like wearing cotton underwear and avoiding tight, synthetic clothes and any scented products around the vagina can make a big difference. Diet and lifestyle can also be contributing factors–yeast thrives on sugar, so try limiting sweets and eating lots of healthy foods with probiotics (like yogurt) to introduce more “good” bacteria into your body. Adding a probiotic supplement to your regimen can also help, especially if you’ve been taking antibiotics. Also be sure to avoid douching and always wipe from front to back when using the bathroom.

If you have the symptoms of a yeast infection, it is always a good idea check in with a medical provider. Some symptoms can mirror those of certain STIs, and you want to ensure that you’re getting the right treatment so you can feel better ASAP! There are also certain conditions, like diabetes and HIV that make you more susceptible to yeast infections, so checking in with a doctor is a great idea if you can’t shake the symptoms. A yeast infection is not considered an STI, although they can be spread by sexual contact. This is especially common between two vagina-having partners, so if you’re experiencing any symptoms make sure to get treated and use a barrier method (including with sex toys) in the meantime.

While it’s rare, it is possible for people with penises to get yeast infections. If you’re having sex with a penis-haver, your partner may have a yeast infection and not know it, passing it back to you when you have unprotected sex. Make sure that your partner does not have any symptoms of a yeast infection. These may include small white spots, redness, or a dry rash. If so, they should get treated similarly to people with vaginas: with an antifungal cream or prescription antifungal pill. In addition, if you’re treating your yeast infections with a cream, having penis-in-vagina sex may actually keep the medication from staying put and doing its job, so consider avoiding having penetrative sex until your yeast infection has cleared.