Pregnancy brings with it all kinds of changes to your body: glowing skin, a swelling belly, and lots more emotions among them. Early in your pregnancy, you might also notice that you have a stronger or heightened sense of smell.
Some refer to this as “pregnancy nose,” but the medical term is hyperosmia. If the smell of coffee brewing or eggs cooking unexpectedly overwhelms your nose and turns your stomach, you’re not alone. According to recent studies, around two-thirds of pregnant women report their sense of smell as stronger than usual.
Experts say that being more sensitive to odors during pregnancy could serve as protection. A more sensitive sense of smell may alert you of something possibly toxic to your baby before you eat it. But that doesn’t mean a heightened sense of smell is pleasant; many of the times, it’s a trigger for morning sickness.
Why is my sense of smell so strong?
One theory is that shifting hormone levels cause a stronger sense of smell. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone your body creates after the fertilized egg attaches itself in the uterus wall. It’s also the hormone a pregnancy test detects to tell you you’re expecting. Higher levels of hCG early in pregnancy correlate to the changes in smell that many pregnant women report.
Another possibility is that rather than being more sensitive to smells during pregnancy, you’re just more aware of them. Increased alertness during these nine months could help you focus on scents that could be harmful to your growing baby and avoid them.
What can I do about a heightened sense of smell when pregnant?
While you can’t make your nose less sensitive to smells, there are some things you can do to avoid scents that ramp up your nausea. If a foul odor triggers a round of nausea and vomiting, ask your doctor if it’s okay to take an anti-nausea medication.
Here are 7 simple tips for coping with a strong sense of smell during pregnancy:
1. Air Out Your Home
Leave your windows open whenever possible and turn your ceiling fans on if you have them. Airing out your home will help banish any musty odors or cooking smells.
2. Eat Smart
Only cook the foods you can stand to smell. The old you might have loved steamed cauliflower and broccoli. But if the pregnant you hates the smell of these veggies, just avoid them until after you deliver.
3. Ditch the Perfume
Go easy on anything scented, including body lotion, deodorant, and perfume. Or, you could switch to a fragrance that doesn’t make you sick.
Avoiding scented products goes for your man, too. You might have loved his Thierry Mugler cologne before, but the scent makes you queasy now that you’re pregnant.
4. Seek Nausea-Soothing Scents
Surround yourself with a scent like lemon, mint, ginger, and cinnamon. These scents can make you feel better and soothe your nausea rather than worsen it.
Essential oils like peppermint may help ease pregnancy symptoms and reduce anxiety and stress. Regularly spreading a small amount inside your nostrils may block out other offensive odors. Ask your doctor before trying any essential oils during your pregnancy.
5. Do Laundry More Often
The fibers of your clothing tend to hang onto odors. So, we recommend washing your clothes more often than usual to help eliminate these odors.
6. Ask Others to be Considerate
Ask your partner, family, friends, and co-workers to be sensitive to your newly strong sense of smell. They could avoid microwaving fish for lunch or go easy on the perfume.
7. Grab a piece of gum or some candy
Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy can help cancel the scents of smells you find unpleasant.
We hope that one (or a few!) of these tips give you some relief! Do you have a suggestion that didn’t make our list? Please share it in the comments!
The Top 8 Most Gag-inducing Smells
In studies, pregnant women rated perfumes, meat, pets, meat, and eggs as some of the most unappealing smells and fruits as more pleasant. When asked, many pregnant women had smells that seemed to top their lists repeatedly. Take a look and see if any on our list make you feel nauseous. They include:
1. Strong Foods
The biggest offenders are foods that linger and are already strong, like onions, garlic, and curry. However, there may be smells you just can’t stomach for whatever reason, including fried foods, spaghetti sauce, or heavily flavored syrups.
2. Meat Cooking
For some pregnant ladies, chicken cooking smells disgusting, and for others, hot dogs stink. But other times, these meats might smell good. The smell of meat cooking is totally random, but when it smells, it smells BAD.
Smells like kitty litter, wet dog, and dog breath are awful even when you’re not pregnant. But once you get “pregnancy nose,” pet scents multiply in grossness.
Even though certain pet chores, like changing your cat’s litter box, are off-limits during pregnancy, many women reported that their four-legged pets were simply “gross” smelling to them.
Many women can relate to an aversion to the smell of seafood. Says one mama-to-be: “I actually canceled a dinner with friends once because we were going to meet up at a seafood restaurant. I felt like a flake, but I knew I couldn’t handle the awful smell!”
5. Heavy Fragrances
Think colognes, laundry detergents, candles, cleaning products, perfumes, and perfumes.
6. Cigarette Breath, Seafood Breath, and Alcohol Breath
Being around someone with bad breath is gross enough, but any of the scents on this list are even worse on someone’s breath!
7. Grocery Stores
Chances are you know exactly what this smell is about. “Grocery store smell” is the combo of all the different scents in a grocery store that issue in an odor that’s near impossible to stand when you’re pregnant.
If you’re like most people, the smell of cigarette smoke gets to you even on a non-pregnant day. So, it makes sense that cigarettes become unbearable during pregnancy. Luckily, not as many people smoke nowadays, so you probably won’t have to encounter this smell regularly.
Does a heightened sense of smell go away?
For most women, sensitivity to strong smells begins to decrease reasonably quickly and early in pregnancy. If not, your sense of smell will likely return to normal as pregnancy progresses or soon after delivery.
If the information here helped you, you’ll want to check these other blogs out:
7 Ways to Make Your Labor Easier
Managing Your Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Is It Normal to Have a Stuffy Nose During Pregnancy?
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on April 10, 2019, and has since been updated.