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Pregnancy Smell Sensitivity

Pregnancy Smell Sensitivity

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The thought of food could make you vomit. Then, you blink to suddenly realize you need to eat everything in sight. You have swollen hands and feet, dark patches of skin on your face, back acne, and an extreme “outie” belly button. You now waddle when you walk, have to pee 3 different times in the middle of the night, your sense of smell is that of a blood hound, and I could go on… This is pregnancy. It is the most magical time, but it is also the weirdest. What is the deal with all these crazy symptoms? Why do we get them and what is the root cause? When should we be expecting to greet them and how long will they stay? Can we do anything to ease them? Well, I can’t address every pregnancy dilemma in a single post without calling it a book and asking you to clear your schedule. So, for today let’s tackle what is probably the most unexpected symptom of them all. That is a heightened sense of smell.


In this article:


What Causes An Increased Sense Of Smell During Pregnancy?

Your body is constantly transforming to support the life growing inside you! It is such an amazing thing but man!, is it causing your whole body chemistry to freak out! Namely, your hormones and in the case of a heightened sense of smell- you can blame estrogen and the hCG hormones. This new nose of yours may even be mother natures way of keeping you away from toxins, how cool is that?! Your heightened sense of smell is at its peak in times where your baby is most sensitive. Take alcohol and cigarette smoke for example. These are some of the most common triggers for most women and researchers happen to believe the correlation is not a coincidence.


When Does Sensitivity To Smells Typically Begin In Pregnancy?

There are strong correlations between fluctuations in hCG levels and changes in your sense of smell. What is the most unfortunate about this is during the time you’re battling impossible fatigue and varying levels of nausea… you also must deal with this increased sense of smell. That’s right. Sensitivity to smells typically begin during your first trimester and are the most prominent at this time while hCG levels are trying to stabilize.

 smell sensitivity during pregnancy


When Does Smell Sensitivity End In Pregnancy?

This varies greatly amongst women but for most it will subside after the first trimester of pregnancy. For some, it could last throughout the entire pregnancy with varying levels in intensity. If you are struggling with nausea, scent sensitivity can really pose an issue for you in triggering your nausea. But don’t worry, some work arounds along with some good tips and tricks to help ease these symptoms are coming…


Can I Prevent Heightened Sense Of Smell During Pregnancy?

You can’t stop the symptom but what you can do is make mental notes of what is causing these moments of nasal warfare and just try your very best to avoid them.

  1. Watch your diet. If you can’t stand the smell of fish, simply stop eating/cooking fish. This is just one example but the overarching message here is to not force yourself into eating things you feel are healthy for the baby while making yourself miserable in the process. Today we have access to so much variety in our diet; there is bound to be other foods that don’t make you want to hurl, that are just as nutritious.
  2. Pay attention to the household products you are using. If the glass cleaner makes you want to gag, opt for an unscented or all-natural version. If you are not having luck with any pre-made home cleaning products, it may be time for you to make your own. You simply need to buy some bottles with pre-marked lines and then fill them with vinegar, liquid soap, baking soda, alcohol, and your choice of essential oils. Who knows, in the process you might make a permanent change to non-toxic cleaners for your family!
  3. Tidy up! If the odors in your house are getting to you, make a bigger effort to keep tidy. Be sure to keep a box of baking soda in the fridge to really neutralize the inevitable scents that lurk in there. Consider upping the frequency in your laundry schedule. Since odors have a tendency to sticking with fabrics, it’s not a bad idea to get those socks and bedding washed as much as possible.
  4. Air it out. Keep your house well ventilated. If you are missing a few screens, now is the time to attach those. Airing out your house will not only neutralize the odors in your home but also greatly improves your air quality. This is great for your pregnancy symptoms as well as good for your baby.
  5. Prevent the side effect. Where scents might be the causing your morning sickness, there are a few ways to prevent that side effect all together.
    • Try eating small frequent meals with protein. Try peanut butter, cheese, and protein shakes if you can’t stomach meats right now.
    • Incorporate ginger into your diet as it has been proven to help “ease the queas”.
    • Pour yourself a cup of peppermint or ginger tea.
    • Take B vitamins. A great product to try is Preggie Pops, available on Amazon. They have vitamin B6, B12, and ginger! They are all natural too, so you can feel okay about sucking on them all day long if you need to! Something about sucking on candies makes nausea disappear in most cases.

These are some “cures” that work for most people but not everyone. So just remember to be patient with the process and take it easy when you’re not feeling your best. You can’t control the woman standing next to you in line with too much perfume, your co-worker that loves to heat up his salmon leftovers for lunch, or the odors that are coming from your husbands’ shoes, but you can politely ask to be considered.

 air it out


Specific Odors To Avoid (Smells That Commonly Trigger Pregnant Women)

As mentioned earlier, cigarette smoke and alcohol are very common ones. This makes your popular new job as Mrs. Designated Driver, that much more glamourous. With that said, there are many other trigger scents to watch out for. Pay attention to the common theme, here. Most of the following scents are nauseating to pregnant women and pose a potential threat:

  1. Coffee. Yeah… coffee. The smell most people crave first thing in the morning, might repulse you. This could be due to the theory that your body is trying the shield you from toxins which in this case is caffeine.
  2. Meat. Consuming undercooked meats during this time poses a huge threat to you and your baby. You are hypersensitive to the bacterium listeria, which is found in poorly prepared/undercooked meats as well as cold cuts and can be life threatening to your baby.
  3. Garbage. Okay, this is a silly one because who doesn’t hate this smell of garbage, but the point here is when you’re pregnant this smell is even harder to stomach. You smell it before anyone else and will struggle to shake the terrible odor. Lets just reassign garbage duty to another family member and if your trash can doesn’t have a lid (ie: one in a pull-out cabinet), try using a different one until this time passes.
  4. Body Odor, Bad Breath, Fish, Eggs, Broccoli. Again here, not a shocking line up of foul odors- even for the common folk. All of these have either a completely putrid or a very strong odor. Its no wonder why pregnant woman with their sensitive noses can’t stand them. Avoid cooking the food items in the house and perhaps put off your lunch date with the friend that talks too close for a short while.
  5. Perfumes, Hairspray, and Other Hygiene Products. The best thing to do here is avoid using them when possible. In the case of hairspray, aerosols are your worst enemy. The fine mist creates a nice and largely toxic scent cloud. Foul odor aside this chemical isn’t great to be breathing in at this time, regardless.


What Can I Do About My Superhuman Sense Of Smell?

One of the best ways to fight back is by capitalizing on this very special symptom of yours and treat your nose to something pleasing. An essential oil diffuser is great for this. Get a good collection of all-natural essential oils together and keep that sucker running all day to surround yourself with scents that make you happy. You are also able to dilute the essential oils with water and use them as a little on-the-go body spray to use throughout the day for whenever your surrounding scents aren’t pleasing. If you are battling nausea try getting ahold of mint, ginger, or cinnamon essential oils. These three ingredients have been found to calm bouts of nausea in a jiffy!


Always remember you are not alone in this journey of pregnancy-to-motherhood even though it may sometimes feel that way. You will soon look back at this blip in time and recall it being “not so bad”, at which point you will have a sweet baby that is completely worth all of the side effects. Enjoy the journey as much as you can and congratulations Mom!


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Morning Sickness: Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy, December 2018.

National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Pregnancy and Olfaction: a Review, 2014.

Oxford Academic, Measures of Human Olfactory Perception During Pregnancy, 2007.


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