How to Treat a Toenail Fungal Infection During Pregnancy
Of the things that can happen to your body during pregnancy, toenail fungus is one thing that can be cured if you are unfortunate enough to get it.
Although toenail fungus is unpleasant and irritating, it is treatable. However, when pregnant, you have to take extra special care with how you treat toenail fungus.
This guide provides you with must-know info about toenail fungus during pregnancy. It covers what it is, how to prevent it, and, how to treat it without causing your unborn child any harm.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Why Do Pregnant Women Get Toenail Fungus?
- 1.1 Are You Sure It’s Toenail Fungus?
- 1.2 Can a Fungal Nail Infection Affect Pregnancy?
- 1.3 Is It Safe to Use an Anti-fungal Treatment While Pregnant?
- 1.4 Toenail Fungus Postpartum
- 1.5 How to Prevent Nail Fungus During Pregnancy
Why Do Pregnant Women Get Toenail Fungus?
Anyone can get toenail fungus. However, if you are pregnant, your chances of getting toenail fungus are slightly higher. In many situations, it is not the pregnancy itself that has led to your fungal infection. For example, you picked up the infection before you became pregnant.
You may only start to see the symptoms many months later. If you notice the signs, this might lead you to assume that the two are connected when they are not. However, sometimes pregnancy can make you more susceptible to toenail fungus. This is because of the changes that your body undergoes during pregnancy.
Once you fall pregnant, various changes occur in the way your body functions.
These can include:
- An increase in blood production
- A change in your biochemical balance
- Sometimes your immune system becomes weaker
Your immune system may change to protect the baby. However, it can be harder to fight off fungal infections when you become affected.
So, if you pick up a toenail infection or you notice a common sign like a yellow toenail in pregnancy, you might have a harder time fighting off the fungus and recovering.
You might also get hyperglycemia when you are pregnant. This is due to diabetes in pregnancy, and this can lead to the fungus growing more quickly. This is due to the high concentration of sugar in the blood that can promote growth.
Stress can also be a problem. Higher stress levels can contribute to your inability to fight off fungal infections so easily.
Finally, when you are pregnant, you may experience higher levels of perspiration. This is common in pregnancy. You may experience more sweat in and around your feet, and moisture is an environment where fungi like to grow.
Fungus thrives in warm, moist conditions. If your feet are sweating more, this could provide the fungus with the perfect opportunity to flourish – especially if you wear shoes or sneakers for the greater part of the day.
Are You Sure It’s Toenail Fungus?
The symptoms of toenail fungus can be similar to other problems. One of the most common conditions that are mistaken for toenail fungus is a trauma to the toenail.
You may have noticed that your toenail is separating from the nail bed. This can be a symptom of toenail fungus, though it is usually more advanced. If you did not notice any of the symptoms mentioned above before discovering a black nail, you can rule out fungus.
You can cause trauma to a toenail without stubbing your toe or dropping something on your foot. For example, tight shoes can cause a problem. If your nail is pressed against the ends of your shoes or banging on the seams, it can cause the toenail to turn black.
It might be your body’s way to try and heal the damage. The toenail can sometimes thicken to protect itself. The only thing you can do is wait for it to heal and change your footwear.
Can a Fungal Nail Infection Affect Pregnancy?
In general, toenail fungus will not cause you a problem when during pregnancy unless you are taking prescription medications. If you were taking pharmaceuticals for a fungal condition before you discovered you were pregnant, you should consult your doctor immediately.
Prescription medicine that is used to treat toenail, such as Lamisil, have side-effects. Any pharmaceuticals can cause damage to an unborn fetus so avoid them altogether.
If the toenail fungus leads to other problems like a skin infection, treatment could be more complicated. Your doctor will probably want to keep an eye on it throughout your pregnancy.
If your fungus is at an early stage, there is a chance your doctor will recommend you use an anti-fungal foot cream which usually deals with the condition without any problems.
Is It Safe to Use an Anti-fungal Treatment While Pregnant?
Your first option for treating toenail fungus will typically be an anti-fungal cream. But is this going to be safe for you during your pregnancy?
Topical medicines are often used to treat fungal infections in the early stages, including medicated nail cream and ointment. However, when you are pregnant, you should never use any form of medication without first consulting with your doctor.
It may be that your doctor says you can use one of these creams. They may recommend an anti-fungal cream, for example. But they might also tell you not to use it for more than a few weeks. They are thought to present lower risks compared to other forms of treatment like oral medicines.
But that does not mean you should consider them automatically safe. Your doctor should have the final say. They will tell you whether you should use a cream or not when you are pregnant.
Using Tea Tree Oil when Pregnant
One of the most popular natural remedies for toenail fungus during pregnancy is tea tree oil. This is not a medicine, but it can often be useful. It can help to ease the symptoms, and it may be able to treat fungus on the toenail. But never take it orally.
There are different ways that you may want to apply it:
- Apply a solution directly to the affected toenail with a cotton ball twice a day.
- You might want to dilute it first, and you can do this with olive oil or coconut oil. These are essential oils, so they do not affect its ability to heal.
- Create a rub with the oil and rub it onto the affected toenail twice a day. Once you have applied it, leave it to dry naturally.
Home Remedies for Toenail Fungus
There are other home remedies you may want to try to treat your toenail fungus. Again, although these should be safe, always check with your doctor, especially when you are pregnant.
Here are some of your options:
- Garlic is said to have anti-fungal properties so you may want to try this. Cut up a garlic clove and rub it over your toenail. You might want to create a rub using olive oil. Alternatively, use garlic oil. Dilute it with vinegar and apply directly to the affected nail.
- Vicks VapoRub also may be effective. This contains thymol, which is an inhibiting ingredient that stops dermatophytes from growing, which cause fungus. Many people claim they have used Vicks for toenail fungus. However, it is unclear whether it has been proven to work.
- Turmeric is also said to be an effective treatment for fungus and that it has antimicrobial properties. Create a paste using olive oil or coconut oil and apply daily to treat your toenail.
Some topical treatments might not cure the infection, but they may help to keep it at bay. This can help to prevent it from getting worse until you can take an oral medication again.
Foot Soaks for Treating Toenail Fungus
Another possible remedy for toenail fungus is to try a foot soak. The added benefit of foot soaks is they are relaxing and help you unwind at the end of the day.
You could use Tea Tree oil in your foot soak. Another option is to mix white vinegar and baking soda in. Use warm water and soak your feet for about 15-20 minutes each day.
Using Medicated Nail Polish when Pregnant
You might also want to consider using an anti-fungal nail polish. One of the most common is ciclopirox.
While this should be safe to use during pregnancy, it may not be safe for treating toenail fungus when breastfeeding.
Apply this to the nail once a day. Each week, clean the nail using alcohol. This removes the layers. Then start again. But follow the instructions on the pack if you are unsure.
Is Laser Therapy a Safe Option?
Laser therapy could also be an option. This is where a laser treatment is used to treat the nail.
This would only be considered in more severe cases. It is often not the best option when you are pregnant.
Is It Safe to Use Lamisil During Pregnancy?
The most effective treatments for fungal nail infections are usually oral medications. These are typically taken for three months, but sometimes longer. However, these are not often recommended during pregnancy.
One of the most common is Lamisil (terbinafine hydrochloride).
While it is generally claimed as being safe to use in pregnancy, some doctors may prefer that you do not use any medication. Lamisil can also have many unpleasant side effects even when you are not pregnant so should be avoided during your term, and when you are breastfeeding.
Some anti-fungal medications like terbinafine may also cause liver problems.
Toenail Fungus Postpartum
If you are affected by a toenail fungal infection after giving birth and have decided to breastfeed your baby, be careful about what you digest or rub into your skin.
Small traces of drugs can contaminate your breast milk and cause damage to your newborn. It is, therefore, the best option to avoid medication if you are breastfeeding.
It is also thought that anti-fungal creams could pollute breast milk, but this is mostly unproven. According to the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (Volume 70, Issue 1), it is most widely regarded that fungal or yeast infections are okay to treat with creams when breastfeeding.
How to Prevent Nail Fungus During Pregnancy
Prevention is always the best cure, and this is the case for toenail fungus.
There are steps you can take to prevent a fungal infection at any time. You can also follow these when you are pregnant to reduce the risks.
So, what should you do to prevent a toenail fungal infection when you are pregnant?
The first and most important thing to do is to take good care of your feet. Wash them thoroughly with soap and water every day. After you wash them, always dry them properly.
Don’t put your socks on straight away. Allow your feet to breathe and dry out thoroughly first.
As mentioned, you may sweat more when you are pregnant. This can make your feet sweatier and more likely to be areas where fungus can thrive. So, look after them.
Here are some quick tips:
- Wear dry cotton socks
- Wear shoes that fit well and are not too tight or too loose
- Change your socks during the day
- Spend some time without any shoes and socks on when at home
If you visit any public areas where water is present, like a sauna or swimming pool, take precautions. The main thing you will want to do is wear shower shoes. This can reduce your chances of picking up a fungal infection.
Also, disinfect any pedicure tools you use on your feet, such as nail trimmers. Take even more precautions than you would typically to reduce risks.
Look after your nails and keep them well trimmed. If you cut or scratch your toes, you should clean them properly and disinfect the wound. This can help to prevent fungus from penetrating any cuts.
If you are affected by toenail fungus when you are pregnant, your treatment options will usually be more limited. Always consult a doctor before commencing a treatment plan!