11 Smells That Make Morning Sickness Worse

by Yvette Manes

Morning sickness is a misnomer. Anyone who has ever had pregnancy-related nausea knows that it can strike morning, noon, or night. When you're pregnant, your sense of smell is heightened and the increased sensitivity can wreak havoc on your stomach. Suddenly, everyday smells or scents you never noticed in the past can have you hovering over the toilet. For some moms-to-be, there are particular smells that make morning sickness worse.

When I was pregnant, there were places I wouldn't go because just imagining the smell made me start to dry heave. I banned certain foods from entering my home and avoided the kitchen like the plague. At one point, I remember inhaling the scent of my newly bleached toilet and thinking that it was the first breath of fresh air that I'd had in weeks. I honestly considered bringing my pillow and comforter into the bathroom.

The nausea-inducing smells drastically changed my eating habits. Beige carbs were the only thing I could tolerate, even though I still sometimes pinched my nose when I ate. But why? Babble reported that hormones may be the cause of your heightened sense of smell.

The smells that send pregnant women running to the toilet can vary, but here are some of the most common morning sickness triggering smells.



"I could smell chicken thighs everywhere.," Rachel L., a teacher in the U.K., tells me in an interview with moms about their experience with smell aversions. "It was the worst smell ever. I couldn't eat a chicken thigh for about 18 months after my baby was born!" And there's a reason for it. A 2005 study in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that pregnant women have olfactory processes no different than that of non-pregnant women, yet, so many find similar smells repulsive. A common nausea-triggering smell for pregnant women is chicken. Visit any pregnancy message board, or talk to a small handful of your friends and you will find at least one person who had an aversion to chicken while pregnant.



"With my first two pregnancies I couldn't handle the smell of raw meat," Jasmine A., a Florida-based jewelry designer who is expecting baby number three, says. Why? Well, some women have to steer clear of all meats when battling morning sickness. Dr. Sears suggests one way to reduce nausea related to food smells is to have someone else cook during the time you have morning sickness.


Garlic And Onions

"If a woman is already slightly nauseous a strong odor may enhance these symptoms," Yvonne Bohn, co-author of The Mommy Docs’ Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth told The Bump. Since these smells are pungent enough when you're not expecting, she recommends that women with morning sickness avoid strong smells.


Grocery Stores

"Walking into the grocery store, with its million different smells, was very difficult for the first few months," mom and magazine editor Jessica Haddad says. If this ails you, see if you can get your groceries sent to you.


Fried Foods

Florida moms Jackie Rojas-Quinones and Gina Fernandez agreed that the smell of fried foods was a trigger when they were suffering from morning sickness. "The worst was random fried food smells that would linger in people's clothes," Fernandez says. "I can't explain it, but I would smell this greasy food smell emanating from strangers and start gagging." If the smell alone weren't bad enough, fried food odor lingers on clothing. The Bump suggests washing your clothes often to avoid trapping odors in the fibers.



Whole9 suggests that some smell aversions serve an evolutionary purpose. For example, Dr. Loren Cordain, the founder of the Paleo movement warns that eating too much protein may be harmful to your baby’s health.



E. Leslie Cameron, professor of psychological science at Carthage College writes in Frontiers In Psychology that increased olfactory sensitivity protects the developing embryo by reducing the likelihood that the mother will ingest toxins.


Musty And Damp Odors

Another example of how potentially dangerous smells can make exacerbate morning sickness is that of musty, damp, or moldy smells. "We were house hunting during my first pregnancy. Every single time we walked through the front door of a house that had a basement, I would turn around and walk right back out," Debra Sarkine, mother of two, says. "I could smell a musty/damp smell that everyone else swore was not there, no matter how sealed, finished, dry, or brand-new the space. I still have tiny bit of regret that we might have missed out on a really great home."


Hand Sanitizer

Keeping her hands free of germs while on-the-go was a challenge for Kara Hann, who runs an at-home business and is a mom of three young sons. "Hand sanitizer. Ugh," she says. "I still can't handle the smell."



Leah Majirsky Williams, from Beavercreek, Ohio said that when she was pregnant with her daughter she couldn't stand the way her dog smelled when he came in from being outside. "I know that's weird," she tells me. "But their fur has a smell to it after they've been outdoors and it would make me run to the bathroom!"



While none of the women that I spoke to admitted that they had an aversion to their husband during pregnancy, Babble reports that this phenomenon is "incredibly common – and, while rather a bizarre experience, totally normal." And to prove that it's real, NY Daily News reported that Beyoncè had an aversion to Jay Z's cologne while she was pregnant.