How Pregnancy Affects the Senses

Alterations in sight, taste, or smell are very common during pregnancy. Today, we'll tell you how and why pregnancy affects the senses.
How Pregnancy Affects the Senses

Last update: 22 September, 2021

Pregnancy is a true transformation at all levels. Generally, the most visible changes are those modifications in the silhouette, which usually concern women. However, the sense organs are also altered, especially during the first months. If this is your first pregnancy, some of these changes may scare you into wondering if they’re normal and when they’ll end. So, having the right information is the best way to stay calm and enjoy your pregnancy from start to finish. And in this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how pregnancy affects the senses.

How pregnancy affects the senses

Sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste are our “5 powers” that allow us to receive information from the world around us. Through these senses, we identify opportunities and dangers in the environment and make decisions about our actions.

During pregnancy, changes in hormonal levels affect these perceptions and some of the most typical and common symptoms among pregnant women are produced.

Next, we’ll show you the most relevant alterations, sense by sense.

Smell

This is one of the senses that is most altered during pregnancy. And, as this change manifests early, it usually alerts women about the possibility that they may be expecting.

The main olfactory characteristic of pregnant women is hyperosmia, an exacerbation in the sense of smell, which makes all odors be perceived much more clearly and intensely.

This phenomenon occurs due to the increase in estrogens and progesterone typical of the beginning of pregnancy and also due to the greater blood supply to the nasal membranes.

A pregnant woman experiencing aversion to the smell of cigarette smoke.

Hyperosmia not only makes unpleasant odors more annoying than usual, but it also produces an aversion to frequent and pleasant scents, such as that of a woman’s favorite perfume.

As a result of this, another typical symptom of pregnancy is caused: Nausea. And, in a way, this hyperosmia is a defense mechanism of the mother’s body to protect the baby against potentially toxic or harmful substances.

Paradoxically, some women experience just the opposite phenomenon: Anosmia or loss of smell. This happens due to a great congestion of the nasal mucosa. It’s much less common, but it also leads to a decrease in the sense of taste.

Taste

Have you noticed that food tastes different to you since becoming pregnant? Do you crave foods that you never ate and reject those that were a regular part of your diet? Don’t worry! It’s something totally natural and responds to three processes of pregnancy:

  • The decrease in the secretion of hydrochloric acid from the stomach (a substance that promotes digestion): This generates a metallic taste in the mouth, which alters the perception of flavors. Interestingly, to compensate for this deficit, the body “asks” to consume acidic products such as lemons or pickles.
  • Increased levels of chorionic gonadotropin: This also modifies the flavors and leads to the appearance of cravings.
  • The drop in blood sugar levels: In response to this phenomenon, it’s normal for the craving for sweet foods to increase, even in women who don’t usually eat them.

Touch

Tactile disturbances are also common in pregnancy. Many women experience breast tenderness or pain for the first few months, due to the action of estrogens and progesterone. But it’s also common to feel itching or stinging in the rest of the body, as well as more heat and sweating.

These changes are the result of increased blood flow to the skin that occurs during pregnancy. To avoid these symptoms, it’s a good idea to wear loose clothing that’s made with natural fabrics. At the same time, pregnant women should be sure to hydrate the skin and practice skin hygiene on a daily basis.

Hearing

Although these changes aren’t very intense, they’re very common among pregnant women. Increased perception of sound can exacerbate fatigue and discomfort and cause restlessness. For this reason, it’s best to avoid loud and shrill noises, as they can disturb the fetus and increase its heart rate.

View

Unlike the previous senses, sight isn’t increased by pregnancy. Rather, it tends to decrease or worsen. Specifically, due to the action of the hormones relaxin and progesterone, which favor fluid retention inside the eye. This affects the cornea and lens and causes a decrease in sharpness and visual acuity.

A pregnant woman holding eye glasses.

Variations in vision are usually temporary and disappear progressively after delivery. However, it’s still a good idea to consult an ophthalmologist to avoid possible complications.

Conclusions regarding how pregnancy affects the senses

As you can see, your senses can be noticeably altered during pregnancy and it’s possible that some of these changes accompany you until the baby is born.

Now that you know what to expect, you can more easily enjoy your pregnancy. Still, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor if any of your symptoms raise concerns.

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