I Transmitted a Yeast Infection to My Partner Through Sex

Here's what to know about dealing with a yeast infection during sex.

When becoming intimate in a new relationship, it's common to have a thousand thoughts firing off in your head during sex: Do I smell down there? How does my body look in this position? Is he going to orgasm? Am I going to orgasm? But for me, those thoughts had never included the following: Am I going to give my boyfriend a yeast infection?

Like many females, I was familiar with yeast infections. I knew the telltale symptoms (itching, burning, and cottage cheese-like discharge) and that hormonal birth control, antibiotics, or even wearing yoga pants all day might up your risk. But could you have sex with a yeast infection? The simple answer is yes. The bad news? It is possible to give your yeast infection symptoms to a partner during intercourse.

When my boyfriend and I were newly dating, I noticed sex felt a bit more painful than normal. I suspected I had the beginnings of a yeast infection and mentioned to him that I needed to go to the drugstore to pick up an over-the-counter antifungal treatment. At the time, my significant other didn't tell me that he had also started to experience itching, pain, swelling, and, bizarrely enough, "peeling" downstairs. He didn't connect his symptoms to my yeast infection, and instead, was concerned that he might have leprosy (to this day, this makes me LOL).

My boyfriend decided to text his brother, a doctor, and explain his symptoms. In response, his brother asked him to send a picture so he could get a better idea of what was causing the swelling and peeling skin. (Yes, my modest boyfriend had to send a nude photo to his sibling.) After receiving the photo, his brother quickly digitally diagnosed him with a yeast infection and told him to buy antifungal medication. After applying the cream for a few days, my boyfriend's yeast infection was gone, like it never happened—if only.

How Are Yeast Infections and Sex Connected?

Although yeast infections are not sexually transmitted infections, it is possible to transmit them to a partner. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Office on Women's Health (OWH), about 15% of males develop symptoms such as an itchy rash after having sex with a female who has the infection. Other yeast infection symptoms in males can include redness, a burning sensation, and patches of shiny, white skin on the penis.

Although vaginal sex is the most likely method of transmission, it's not the only one you have to consider. "If a woman or man is giving oral sex to a partner with a yeast infection, there is the chance of yeast spreading into the oral cavity, called thrush or oral thrush," said Sherry A. Ross, MD, a Los Angeles-based OB/GYN and author of "Sheology." Symptoms like an itchy, irritated mouth with white patches or sores might point to oral thrush.

Per the OWH, two female partners could potentially transmit a yeast infection to each other. Suzanne Fenske, MD, assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai told us that if vaginal fluids are exchanged, such as through shared sex toys, there is a small risk of this.

Regardless of how you acquired it, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to confirm that your symptoms are in fact a yeast infection and get prescribed treatment. Dr. Fenske also suggested saline solution bathing because it creates an environment that's particularly helpful for healing.

Other Concerns Regarding Yeast Infections and Sex

There are some conditions that may look similar to yeast infections, including urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bacterial vaginosis (BV). While you can develop UTIs after sex (the urethra is right next to the vagina, so bacteria in the vagina can transfer to the urethra and bladder, triggering an infection), you can't transmit it to a partner, experts said. With BV, the environment in the vagina may be affected by intercourse. "Semen can change the pH of the vagina, which can result in the ratio of the perfect balance of good versus bad bacteria [changing], which can result in the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis," explained Orlando-based OB-GYN Christine Greves, MD, a fellow of the American Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology. You can't transmit BV to a male partner, Dr. Greves added, but two female partners may transfer it to each other, such as by sharing sex toys.

And what if you have a yeast infection and really, really want to have sex? All of our experts were in unison about this: Abstinence will make it easier to manage your infection. Not to mention, intercourse will most likely be uncomfortable or painful when symptoms are flaring up. "If you know you have a vaginal infection you should not have sex until it is completely treated," Dr. Ross said.

A Quick Review

It is possible for a yeast infection to be transmitted from one partner to another during sex. If you suspect you may have a yeast infection, it's best to see a healthcare provider for confirmation, as UTIs and BV can look very similar to yeast infections. The healthcare provider will also be able to offer guidance for treatment.

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