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What that Smell? Smell Aversion in Pregnancy

Katlyn Joy |17, December 2012


Of all the early pregnancy symptoms you prepare for, probably the least talked about is smell aversion. However, it can impact your life as much as fatigue or morning sickness. In fact, there is research linking morning sickness to smell aversion. Apparently in women who have no sense of smell, morning sickness is non-existent.

Part of the big hormonal changes of pregnancy includes a heightened sense of smell. While it may come in handy when trying to find the funky smelling substance in the kitchen, it can be a real pain when it's an odor you find yourself in contact with often. Even worse when it's a common smell that leads to nausea, or worse yet, vomiting.

The smells that trigger the ugh moments can include odors previously attractive to the pregnant woman. Beyonce for instance reported during her pregnancy that she came to hate the smell of her husband, Jay-Z's cologne even though she loved it pre-baby.

Some notorious culprits include strong or pungent odors, like onions or fried eggs, but sometimes they can include scents not normally even noticeable like someone else's fabric softener or hair spray. Colognes and perfumes are often problematic for pregnant women with olfactory sensitivities.

While these problems usually don't result in morning sickness throughout the entire pregnancy, some sensitivity to smells can last the whole nine months.

Some researchers have hypothesized that the aversions may have a built in purpose that served women through history, as in we often are repelled by harmful smells while pregnant. Examples that are commonly seen include tobacco smoke which has aided many expectant moms in quitting smoking. Alcohol is also quick to make a woman hit the gag reflex button.

Others may make no sense to anyone at all. However, that doesn't mean you should just puke and bear it. Let those close to you at work or home what odors send you barrelling for the bathroom. If you can't handle one coworker's perfume, you might just not single her out and let people know perfumes trigger your nausea.

If your husband insists on eating tuna sandwiches despite your pleas, at least have a tuna free zone and don't prepare any meals that sicken you. You don't need to suffer needlessly. Try variations to see if there are compromises that can work. Maybe you can't stand your man's body wash fragrance, so you can switch brands and scents and see if that's better.

Besides avoiding and letting people know your sensitivities, you can also keep a healthy amount of air spray or fabric cleaner on hand. Stock up because if you are prone to morning sickness triggered by olfactory sensitivity you will definitely use air spray a lot.

Another option is to keep a window open and a fan to vent cooking smells. Keep the kitchen clean and neutral smelling too.

Find a scent that can overpower negative ones and use it whenever needed. Recommended scents to fight nausea include lemon, citruses, mint and cinnamon. Get essential oils and use them around the house and the car. Keep a tissue soaked in a favorite scent in a plastic bag and carry it with you to keep nausea at bay. If mint works, drink mint tea. If lemon or mint works, keep hard candies close by at all times.

One little known and rather embarrassing side effect of smell aversion in pregnancy is that women often smell themselves. They may even be paranoid about vaginal odors that surprisingly, are only discernable to themselves. Should you be concerned about an odor and unsure whether it is just your touchy nose or perhaps something else, talk to your doctor. You may be alerted to an infection that needs treatment. Whatever you do, if you are worried about feminine odor, don't use products to cover it up. Always talk to your doctor before using any such products. Also don't use herbal treatments with first checking them out with your physician first.

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