Heightened Sense of Smell in Pregnancy

Can pregnancy cause a heightened sense of smell?

Have you got a heightened sense of smell during pregnancy? Did you suddenly wake up with a new super power where you have a super sense of smell like a dog? Although perhaps not always a good thing!

Your sense of smell could be greatly enhanced during pregnancy, sometimes to the point of making you feel nauseous. Certain coffees, washing powders and perfume will make you want to run for fresh air because the smells are so strong and overwhelming.

The general medical term for a heightened sense of smell is hyperosmia.

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Is heightened sense of smell and early pregnancy symptom?

In my case, my bionic sense of smell appeared after my 5th week and grew stronger week by week. As I experienced morning sickness intensely during my first trimester, any strong smells would lead to nausea and vomiting.

Many pregnant ladies experiences changes in their sense of smell through their whole pregnancy.

A heightened sense of smell is definitely one of the earlier signs of pregnancy although most likely to appear after you have a positive pregnancy test.

Can pregnancy cause a heightened sense of smell?

My work colleague would often leave a half empty cup of coffee in our office overnight. Upon walking into our small office space early the next morning, I would feel extremely nauseous because of the overwhelming smell of coffee. I would have to remove said coffee cup to the kitchen and open the office window wide, whilst holding my breath. I couldn’t say anything to my colleague because there was no way I was going to tell him I was pregnant until I got to 12 weeks.

Or another terrible smell for me was the perfume of a work colleague, who was also a really good friend of mine. I never did mention it to her (she may read this now and say “why didn’t you tell me?”) because I know she really loved her perfume. For me the smell first thing in the morning was overpowering and I often had to walk away from our desks. What’s more, she always went to the toilet to freshen up before every lunchbreak, which included fresh squirts of perfume. I didn’t feel like I could ask her to stop wearing her favourite perfume.

Why do I suddenly have a heightened sense of smell?
  • The increase in hormones, especially levels of estrogen during the first trimester can lead to what is termed as hyperacuity of olfactory perception (a more perceptive sense of smell).
  • Increased blood volume (by up to 50%) during pregnancy, affects the blood vessels in the nose and can put the smell receptors on overdrive, giving you the bionic sense of a dog’s nose.
  • Perhaps it is an in-built natural human protective mechanism, to stop us breathing in anything harmful or an early warning sign of danger? Although there is no evidence to prove this, the idea is often questioned. A pregnant women needs to be careful what she eats and therefore enhanced smell and taste could well be something evolutionary.
When does heightened sense of smell in pregnancy go away?

Having a super sense of smell during pregnancy affects each woman differently. In my case, the more stronger smells such as onions, garlics and meat cooking, laundry powders, perfumes, coffee and cigarette, remained throughout all trimesters of pregnancy. Luckily the onset of nausea and vomiting from strong smells did fade away once I was out of my first trimester.

Recommendations for alleviating any overwhelming smell during pregnancy

    • As pregnancy affects each woman differently, you will have to get to know which smells are triggering you.
    • You may well have to avoid certain people or places until your heightened sense of smell subsides. Especially during the first trimester when your sense of smell could trigger morning sickness.
    • Find something that you like the smell of and keep it nearby. I recommend using some Essential Oils such as Lemon or Orange to help combat odor during pregnancy*
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