While standing on your deck, do you suddenly feel like you can smell your neighbor smoking on their back porch four houses down? Does the smell of your favorite perfume suddenly seem so intense, it makes you want to hurl? Welcome to pregnancy. It’s pretty common knowledge that an increased sense of smell is a normal pregnancy symptom, but what if you start noticing an odor that just won’t go away? And then to your horror — you realize it’s you. Does your body odor smell different when you're pregnant? Even after showering daily since I’ve become pregnant, I still feel like I, well, stink. Or at the very least, smell odd. Have I always smelled like this to other people and my newly enhanced nose is just now noticing?
According to Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman, an OB-GYN and medical travel blogger along with his twin brother for TwinDoctorsTV, I’m not alone in feeling like I suddenly smell worse. “Believe it or not, this is a really common question and concern of pregnant women and the short answer to that question is no. I always tell my patients that just about everything that they experience during pregnancy they experience because the body is doing it's best to protect the pregnancy and growing baby,” Abdur-Rahman tells Romper.
As far as if I’ve always smelled this way and it’s just now intensified, Abdur-Rahman explains, “First of all, everybody has their own characteristic body scent. Just like you get accustomed to the scent of your significant other after a while, you also get accustomed to your own scent. Most of us never really smell our own scent until we are pregnant or have other conditions that cause hyperosmia, so we are automatically turned off by this constant odor that we didn't ever smell before. To make matters worse, during pregnancy the sense of smell is not only heightened, but tastes and smells that aren't usually unpleasant when you are not pregnant take on a more unpleasant odor/taste. So do you have an odor? Yes, we all do. Is the odor bad or strong? Assuming you have good hygiene, no — your nose is just experiencing what every pregnant nose experiences.”
Thank God. So why do our sniffers get stronger during pregnancy anyway? And what does hyperosmia mean? Abdur-Rahman says, “This phenomenon [of an intensified sense of smell] is known as hyperosmia, and it is directly linked to the fluctuating hormone levels during pregnancy. This condition seems to be most prevalent during the first trimester when hormones are peaking, but it is usually present throughout the pregnancy.” The process, according to Abdur-Rahman, involves your pregnancy hormones stimulating a part of the brain known as the olfactory center. “And this is the part of the brain that controls the sense of smell. While no one knows for certain why this happens, the most common theory is that having an increased sense of smell will protect mom and baby from potential dangers both in the environment, and in food or drink,” he explains.
When can a pregnant woman expect this lovely side effect of pregnancy to go away? Will we ever not hate the way we smell? “Hyperosmia does improve a bit after the first trimester. Again, from a physiological standpoint, this makes sense because hormone levels tend to decline after the first trimester. Functionally this also makes sense because the first trimester is the time when the developing baby is most vulnerable to external exposures that can cause birth defects. Hyperosmia, however, doesn't tend to completely go away until six to 12 weeks post-delivery for most women,” Abdur-Rahman explains.
Sorry ladies, but it looks like this heightened sense of smell will stick around for a while, but the intensity should ease up a bit after the first trimester. At least you can rest assured knowing this weird pregnancy symptom happens for a noble cause — protecting your baby from rancid food and other things that could “potentially” cause them harm.
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