Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Thrush during pregnancy and breastfeeding

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Thrush is a yeast infection that can cause vaginal pain, itch and discharge. It’s more common in pregnancy.
  • When you’re breastfeeding, thrush can affect your nipples and your baby’s mouth.
  • If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and have thrush symptoms, see your doctor. There are several treatments that are safe.
  • Thrush won’t harm your baby.
  • You can help prevent thrush by wearing cotton underwear and loose clothing and not using soap or scented products in your vulval area.

What is thrush?

Thrush is an infection caused by a yeast called candida. It often affects the vagina and vulva. If you’re breastfeeding, it can affect your breasts or nipples and your baby’s mouth or bottom.

What are the symptoms of thrush?

If you have vaginal thrush, you may have itching or pain in your vagina or vulva. The area may look red and swollen. It might hurt when you pass urine or have sex. You might notice white discharge that looks a little like cottage cheese.

With nipple thrush, your nipple may be painful, itchy and sensitive even to the lightest touch. Pain doesn't only happen with breastfeeds. It doesn't go away if you reattach your baby to your breast. Your nipple might look pink and shiny, with a dry, red areola.

With breast thrush, you may have shooting pain deep in your breast after feeding. You might feel pain in your back or arm. Your breast will probably look normal.

If you have breast or nipple thrush, your baby will probably have thrush too. They may have a white coating on their tongue or inside their cheeks and a red nappy rash surrounded by small dots.

What causes thrush?

It’s normal to have candida in your vagina. If you have too much, it can cause symptoms of thrush. There are a few things that cause candida to multiply.

A type of bacterium called lactobacillus also lives in your vagina. It stops candida from multiplying. If you don’t have enough lactobacillus, it can’t control yeast growth and you can get thrush. This might happen after you take antibiotics, which destroy bacteria.

High levels of oestrogen can also help candida to multiply. Oestrogen naturally raises the sugar level in your vagina, which helps yeast grow.

Candida can also live on your skin. It grows in warm, damp conditions, such as your nipple area if you’re breastfeeding. If there are cracks in your nipple, the yeast can get inside and cause thrush. You’re also more likely to get nipple thrush if you have recently taken antibiotics, or if you’ve had vaginal thrush. However, often there isn’t an obvious cause.

Am I more likely to get thrush during pregnancy?

Yes. If you’re pregnant, you are twice as likely to get vaginal thrush, because you have higher oestrogen levels.

What treatment will I need for thrush when I’m pregnant?

You can use antifungal vaginal creams or pessaries (tablets that you insert in your vagina) containing the medicines clotrimazole or nystatin. These are safe in pregnancy.

A 6-day course of treatment is better than shorter courses. If you’re using pessaries, it’s best not to use the applicator.

Even though these medicines are available without a prescription, it’s best to see your doctor first, to make sure there’s nothing else causing your symptoms.

Don’t use the single dose oral tablet for thrush during pregnancy unless your doctor tells you to.

Will having vaginal thrush affect my baby?

Vaginal thrush during pregnancy will not harm your baby. If you have thrush during labour and birth, there’s a chance your baby could catch it from you during birth. In the unlikely event that this does occur, it is easy to treat.

What treatment will I need for thrush while I’m breastfeeding?

Vaginal thrush

If you have vaginal thrush when you’re breastfeeding, you can use antifungal vaginal creams or pessaries containing clotrimazole, miconazole or nystatin. You can also use the single dose oral tablet containing fluconazole — a small amount will get into your breastmilk, but it won’t harm your baby.

It’s best to see your doctor before starting treatment.

Nipple thrush

If you have nipple thrush, you and your baby will need to have treatment at the same time, so you don’t keep transferring the infection to each other.

Your baby will usually be prescribed miconazole oral gel. After feeds, wash your hands and rub a small amount of gel onto your baby’s tongue and on the inside of their cheeks. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how to use the gel safely. Alternatively, you can give your baby nystatin drops, but this is less effective. Your baby might also need an antifungal cream if they have a nappy rash.

You can treat your nipples with miconazole oral gel or nystatin cream. Apply a thin layer to both nipples after feeds. You don’t need to wipe it off before the next feed. Your doctor may also prescribe oral antifungal tablets for you.

Ask your doctor how long to use each treatment.

It’s important to:

  • sterilise bottle teats and dummies every day
  • change your breast pads often
  • wash your bras and towels in hot water and hang them out to dry

If your pain doesn’t improve, see your doctor. You might need a different medicine, or it might not be thrush.

Can I keep breastfeeding my baby?

Yes. With both vaginal and nipple thrush, it’s safe to breastfeed. You don’t need to throw out expressed breastmilk.

What can I do to prevent thrush?

  • Wear cotton underwear and loose clothing.
  • Wipe from front to back and wash your hands when you go to the toilet.
  • Don’t use soap or scented products in your vulval area.
  • Wash your hands after changing nappies.

Taking probiotics or changing your diet won’t prevent thrush.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

Thrush | SA Health

Thrush or Candidiasis is a common vaginal infection, caused by an overgrowth of yeasts and is not considered to be a sexually transmitted infection

Read more on SA Health website

Vaginal thrush: self-care -

Vaginal thrush is a yeast infection and some women suffer from recurrent episodes. Symptoms include itching and irritation in your genital area. Find what products are available for vaginal thrush.

Read more on MyDoctor website

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy

Almost all women have more vaginal discharge in pregnancy as it helps prevent any infections travelling up from the vagina to the womb.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Genital thrush - Sexual Health Victoria

Sexual Health Victoria (formally Family Planning Victoria) focuses on reproductive and sexual health care, education and advocacy. Our vision is to improve ever

Read more on Sexual Health Victoria website

Anatomy of pregnancy and birth – vulva

The vulva is the external part of the female genitalia. Learn more about its anatomy and role during pregnancy and labour.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Itching during pregnancy

Mild itching is common in pregnancy, but if the itching becomes severe it can be a sign of a liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

STIs and pregnancy

If you are pregnant, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause serious problems for you and your baby. See how STIs are diagnosed and treated.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Pregnancy - signs and symptoms - Better Health Channel

All women experience pregnancy differently, and you will experience different symptoms at different stages of your pregnancy.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Genital herpes and pregnancy | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government

If you are pregnant and you get genital herpes, it is important to tell your midwife or obstetrician.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Perineal massage

Perineal massage is a technique that can be used during pregnancy to help to stretch the perineum, to reduce the risk of tears when giving birth.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.