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 vagina. Usually, the good bacteria in your body help keep this yeast in check. However, hormonal changes, antibiotics and other things can throw the balance of bacteria out of whack. This can lead to an overgrowth of yeast. As a result, you may get the symptoms of a yeast infection: vaginal itching, irritation, and/or a white discharge.

You can treat yeast infections a few different ways.

You can go to the drugstore and buy over-the-counter anti-fungal creams and vaginal suppositories that treat yeast infections within 3-7 days. Some people find these creams are a bit messy, 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 a yeast infection. It does require a prescription, however, which can be a barrier for some people.

If you have the symptoms of a yeast infection, it’s always a good idea check in with a medical provider.

Some symptoms can mirror those of certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or bacterial vaginosis (BV). 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.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix to prevent yeast infections forever.

It’s most effective to take a holistic approach to bring your body into balance. Try wearing cotton underwear. Avoid tight, synthetic clothes, scented products around your vagina and douches. 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 may also help, especially if you’ve been taking antibiotics. If you’re interested, ask your health care provider if they would recommend taking one. Also be sure to always wipe from front to back when using the bathroom.

A yeast infection is not considered an STI, but 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.

A version of this post was originally published September, 2016.