Why Pregnant Women Have a Better Sense of Smell

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While not getting your period, feeling nauseous, and having tender boobs can be pretty glaring signs that you’re pregnant, many moms-to-be might not immediately know that something’s up if all they notice is a keener sense of smell.

Maybe you start picking up whiffs of food that either seem simply enticing or completely turn your stomach. You might also notice yourself wondering why it suddenly seems like your co-worker is being heavy-handed with her perfume lately. If any of this rings true, you might not want to chalk your heightened awareness of aromas up to having just a newfound talent. According to Dr. William E. Schweizer, the clinical associate professor and OB medical director for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center, having an increased sense of smell is more common than you might think for expecting moms early in their pregnancies.

“It’s not unusual for the newly pregnant woman in the first trimester to have a heightened sense of smell,” Schweizer explained. “It’s probably due to the estrogen increase during this time of the pregnancy, but the cause is really not understood.” According to Dr. Schweizer, it’s been suggested that the increase in vasodilation (the opening of blood vessels) and blood volume might improve the absorption of the smells through the nasal passages.

It’s also known that smell and taste are related, so the negative smells can add to the morning sickness sensations, leading to an increased chance of vomiting. “Women who have no sense of smell (anosmia) don’t have morning sickness and some pregnant women also present phantom smells,” Schweizer added. “Most patients avoid the foods, perfumes, or certain people — body odor is a big culprit — in order to cope.” If you start picking up extra smells, you might want to take this potential early sign seriously — before co-workers and family members start getting suspicious of your womb status!