Yeast Infections Linked To Hormone Replacement Therapy

by Toni Hurst Patient Expert

Two of the best aspects of menopause -- and there aren't many -- are that you 1) stop having to deal with menstrual periods, which always came at the very worst times (like on vacation) and
2) for me, those recurrent yeast infections that I got in my 20s, 30s and 40s went away. Until now.

I haven't had a yeast infection for 10 or 15 years. But a recent argument with a sinus infection had me on three different antibiotics until the infection finally went away. My sinuses are better, but the problem moved southward.

About halfway through the last 14-day course of drugs, I recalled that antibiotics can wipe out the good bacteria in your vagina, so I started eating yogurt and drinking cranberry juice; women often share the virtues of both "cures." These days most medical professionals acknowledge their efficacy, too. In fact, the most common bacteria in your vagina is Lactobacillus acidophilus, the same bacteria in yogurt's active cultures. But it wasn't enough.

Some research was needed. It turns out that menopausal women are more susceptible to annoying yeast infections if they are on hormone replacement therapy. I'm not on HRT specifically, but a lot of my friends are. That was a real shocker to me.

Research shows that HRT or any increased use of the hormones estrogen or progesterone can upset the body's natural balance, including bacteria that keep everything under control in your vagina, and once things get out of whack, a yeast infection can get started. Some yeast infections go away without treatment, but many do not. They're not dangerous (if it is truly just a yeast infection, not a bacterial infection) but the itching sure can be uh, uncomfortable, shall we say?
It didn't occur to me that my vaginal estrogen ring (to help with lubrication) might be making my yeast infection harder to beat, but I bet that's the case.

I'm not nuts about over-the-counter drugs but the yogurt and cranberry juice just weren't getting the job done. So I researched a new-ish treatment of encapsulated boric acid, inserted vaginally. Weird, huh? Not when you think about it, because creating an acidic condition in the vagina can make the place inhospitable to the yeastie beasties.

I wasn't going to try this on my own so I asked my nurse practitioner and she agreed I should try it. You can actually make the capsules at home by buying small gelatin capsules (like some prescription meds are in), putting 600 milligrams (mg) of boric acid inside the capsule, and inserting one into your vagina at night for two weeks. That's a very inexpensive way to go, but I didn't know how to measure 600 mg. You can buy the filled capsules at the pharmacy without a prescription, so that's what I did. I'll let you know how it works.

A couple of cautions: Do not keep boric acid around if you have young children who can get into it. It can be toxic if taken by mouth. Some women have noticed an irritation with boric acid. You should not use the capsules if you are or could be pregnant. Most medical pros recommend trying the over-the-counter cures like Monistat first. I like the natural approach to fixing what's wrong but I have to admit I'm a little nervous about this one.
More in two weeks.

Toni Hurst
Meet Our Writer
Toni Hurst

Toni wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Menopause.