Birth Control

Is Your IUD Causing Yeast Infections?

Most literature — as well as gynecologists — will tell women who are experiencing an increase in yeast infections following the insertion of an IUD ...

by Staff

Is Your IUD Causing Yeast Infections?

Most literature — as well as gynecologists — will tell women who are experiencing an increase in yeast infections following the insertion of an IUD that IUD’s “do not cause yeast infections.” However, research shows that many women will have an increase in yeast infections following an IUD insertion, leading to near-grudging admissions from professionals that while the IUD does not cause yeast infections, it is a substantial “risk factor.”

What is a Yeast Infection?

For the lucky and rare woman who has never experienced a vaginal yeast infection suffice it to say they can cause major discomfort and misery. Yeast infections are most common in women who are menstruating, and less common in postmenopausal women and younger girls who have not started menstruating. The signs and symptoms of a yeast infection include itching of the vulva and around the vaginal opening, pain on urination or intercourse, reddened and swollen vaginal tissues, and unusual vaginal discharge.

What are the Typical Causes of a Yeast Infection?

The fungus responsible for yeast infections (Candida) generally resides in our gastrointestinal tracts, and occasionally in the vagina, but under normal circumstances causes no symptoms or trouble. Sometimes, however, Candida can experience an overgrowth due to antibiotic use, diabetes, a weakened immune system, pregnancy, the use of hormonal contraceptives, contraceptive devices such as vaginal sponges, diaphragms and IUD’s, and, in some cases, a partner’s use of spermicide. A woman who is very sexually active is more likely to experience chronic yeast infections than one who is less active. Between 5 and 10% of all women will have recurring yeast infections, defined as more than four during a one year period.

How Does an IUD Cause a Yeast Infection?

Scientific studies which have attempted to determine whether the insertion of an IUD can cause a yeast infection look to the ability of the Candida to cling or adhere to the parts of the IUD itself. They can confirm the adhesion through scanning electron microscopy which clearly shows many different types of Candida cells adhering to at least three parts of the IUD: the tail section, the copper-covered part of the IUD, and to the irregularities of the IUD’s surface. The tail especially appears to act as a reservoir for yeast cells. The tail of the IUD is a kind of bridge between the vagina, which is normally populated with yeast cells and the upper genital tract which would generally have no Candida present. Copper bearing IUDs seem to attract more yeast than other types of IUDs. Scientific studies in various countries definitively showed that IUD users consistently have more yeast cells in the vagina, leading researchers to believe that the IUD predisposes women to yeast infections.

How to Treat a Yeast Infection

Although some yeast infections can be successfully treated on your own, it is generally best to see a doctor, who may prescribe a pill called Diflucan to cure your Candida. There are also over-the-counter creams available which can stop a yeast infection, and are placed inside the vagina with an applicator. Common examples of these creams are Femstat, Mycelex, Gyne-Lotrimin, Monistat or Vagistat. These creams are commonly used at bedtime to avoid the inevitable dripping and leaking. Some women swear by the bacteria found in plain yogurt (used both internally and externally) as a cure for a yeast infection, while others have found good results from taking garlic tabs or a daily dose of apple cider vinegar. Drink your eight glasses of water, and avoid clothing which is too tight in the crotch as well as underwear made of man-made fibers (cotton is best). Most importantly, if you have noticed an increase in yeast infections following the insertion of your IUD, don’t let your doctor tell you it’s not possible. Not only is it possible, it is highly likely. You may end up deciding to find an alternative form of contraception to reduce the occurrence of yeast infections.

Read more about Preventing Yeast Infections.

More Information

Auler, M. E., Morreira, D., Rodrigues, F. O., Abr Ao, M. S., Margarido, P. R., Matsumoto, F. E., & … Paula, C. R. (2010). Biofilm formation on intrauterine devices in patients with recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis. Medical Mycology, 48(1), 211-216. doi:10.3109/13693780902856626

Llovera Suárez, V., & Perurena Lancha, M. R. (2004). [Identification of yeasts in pap smears: clinical characteristics associated with candidiasis]. Revista Cubana De Medicina Tropical, 56(1), 21-25.

Paiva, L. F., Donatti, L., Patussi, E. V., Svizdinski, T. E., & Lopes-Consolaro, M. E. (2010). Scanning electron and confocal scanning laser microscopy imaging of the ultrastructure and viability of vaginal Candida albicans and non- albicans species adhered to an intrauterine contraceptive device. Microscopy and Microanalysis: The Official Journal Of Microscopy Society of America, Microbeam Analysis Society, Microscopical Society of Canada, 16(5), 537-549. doi:10.1017/S1431927610093773


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