Your Sense of Smell During Pregnancy

Many women notice an increased sense of smell when they become pregnant. Learn about some of the changes that can affect your sense of smell during pregnancy.
Your Sense of Smell During Pregnancy

Last update: 07 April, 2019

During pregnancy, many women notice changes in their sense of smell. It may happen with certain foods, and also with hair products and body odor. In fact, it can provoke nausea, anger, and even episodes of depression.

Due to the links between smell and taste, an aversion to certain foods can go hand in hand with a change in the sense of smell during pregnancy. This normally happens during the first trimester and can even lead to bouts of morning sickness.

Likewise, many studies confirm that a heightened sense of smell during pregnancy is common. Most pregnant women notice greater olfactory sensitivity at some point.

However, some women only notice a mild change in their sense of smell. Others finds that some odors become overwhelming. In the vast majority of cases, everything returns to normal once the baby is born.

Your sense of smell during pregnancy

Pregnancy affects every woman’s body differently. You never know exactly how each mother will respond to a given smell.

Unfortunately, there’s no way you can avoid smells that make you nauseous until you know which ones they are. However, you should know that there are many ways to avoid them.

Among other tips, you can reduce the probability of coming in contact with smells that might cause problems by avoiding certain food and drinks. 

At the same time, you might want to wash your clothes more often as the fibers may retain smells and keep them around longer than you would like.

Causes of changes to your sense of smell during pregnancy

It’s not clear why women react differently to certain smells when they’re pregnant. However, it may be due to the following factors:

1. Increased blood flow

The volume of plasma in the body almost doubles during pregnancy. This means that everything it moves, from the blood to the brain, happens more quickly and in greater quantities. This, in turn, makes you more sensitive to smells that your olfactory receptors captures.

2. Hormonal changes

The increasing levels of estrogen and hormones during the first trimester can cause nausea and vomiting. If you’re already nauseous, a strong odor can worsen the issue.

Keep in mind that a heightened sense of smell is closely related to morning sickness.

3. Defense mechanism

Your sense of smell can even be a defense mechanism to keep you far away from toxins and other poisons that could affect your baby’s development. In this case, it could be an instinctive action with origins in our ancestors.

“However, some women only notice a mild change in their sense of smell. Others finds that some odors become overwhelming.”

How can you improve your sense of smell during pregnancy?

Here’s some advice you can follow to improve your sense of smell during pregnancy. If these changes don’t help and certain smells still make you nauseous, check for natural remedies that can relieve your symptoms.

  • Eat and cook intelligentlyusing foods whose smell you can tolerate.
  • Leave the windows open as much as possible to dispel cooking smells and dampness.
Your Sense of Smell During Pregnancy

  • Smells can stick to fibers, so it can be useful to wash your clothes, towels, and bedclothes more frequently than you normally would. Adding a little air freshener can also help.
  • Switch to unscented cleaning products. 
  • Try to surround yourself with smells that truly make you feel better. Mint, lemon, and caramel are some of the best smells for calming nausea.
  • Put a few drops of essential oil that you know you like on a handkerchief, and keep it in your bag. If you encounter a strong smell that you can’t avoid, you can then use the handkerchief to mask the smells around you.

Finally, remember that it’s normal for your sense of smell to be changed during pregnancy. But don’t worry. In the majority of cases, it returns to normal after the baby is born.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Cameron, E. L. (2014). Pregnancy and olfaction: a review. Frontiers in psychology5, 67.
  • Di Loreto, S. (2005). Prevalencia de náuseas, vómitos, antojos y aversiones en embarazadas del Hospital Escuela Eva Perón (Doctoral dissertation, Universidad de Belgrano. Facultad de Ciencias de la Salud.).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.