Am I giving my girlfriends yeast infections from oral sex?
I’m a guy and I’m concerned that I’m passing yeast infections to my female partners. Over the past several years, I’ve had three girlfriends and they’ve all come down with yeast infections at some point during the relationship. My current girlfriend got a yeast infection after our first sexual contact (I gave her oral sex). Could I be the cause?
Ruthann M. Cunningham, MD on August 9, 2011
Thanks for your question. I appreciate your concern for your partners’ health and I’ll do my best to help you understand what researchers know about oral sex and yeast infections...
Yes, it’s possible that oral sex can lead to yeast infections...but that’s not the whole story. Yeast infections are very common for women...so common, in fact, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate about 75% of women will have had at least one yeast infection in their lifetime. Although women are more likely to get yeast infections if they’re sexually active, women who aren’t sexually active get them, too.
As for oral sex and female yeast infections...a 2003 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health indicates that women who receive oral sex are a little more likely to get repeated yeast infections than women who don’t, but researchers aren’t sure why.
It might have something to do with saliva, or it might have to do with something else. Regardless, when you perform oral sex on a girlfriend, I encourage you to consider using a latex dental dam. This may help prevent your girlfriend from getting a yeast infection, and it can also help prevent the spread of other STDs that can be transmitted through oral sex…like chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes.
Is vaginal sex associated with yeast infections, too? Yes. According to research published in the American Journal of Public Health, women are more likely to get a yeast infection when they have a new sex partner and when they engage in vaginal or oral sex. So it’s possible that you didn’t actually cause your girlfriends’ yeast infections, but having sex disrupted their vaginal chemistry and that resulted in the yeast infections.
We also know that some other behaviors or circumstances make women more vulnerable to yeast infections. For example, if a woman is taking hormone birth control (like the pill, the patch or a vaginal ring); or if she’s pregnant, recently finished taking antibiotics, or has diabetes.
That said, there is a small possibility that you also have a yeast infection...especially if you’ve been having unprotected sex with your girlfriends.Although women are much more likely to get yeast infections than men, men can get yeast infections, too. And men are a little more likely to get one if they’ve had unprotected sex with a woman who has a yeast infection. Typically men who have a yeast infection will notice a reddish rash on the penis starting at the tip...and it might be itchy.
I encourage you see your doctor to find out if you have a yeast infection. And if it turns out that both you and your girlfriend have yeast infections, it’s important that you both follow your doctors’ instructions. (Your doctors will likely advise you both to get treated, and not have sex during treatment to reduce the possibility of passing the infection back and forth).
Thanks again for your question. I hope this helped you understand yeast infections a little better. Good luck and I wish you the best of health.
Dr. Cunningham is a member of the Analyte Physicans Group. She's also a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, practicing at both Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital in Illinois and at Wheaton Franciscan All Saints Medical Center in Wisconsin. An ER physician since 2000, she regularly treats patients with STDs. Dr. Cunningham was educated at Wayne State University School of Medicine and completed her Emergency Medicine residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, IL.