What’s That Smell? My first trimester is plagued by phantom odors.Ceridwen Morris and Rebecca Odes
I am ten weeks pregnant with my first child. This last week has been especially bad as far as smells go. I smell an odor at my home and my husband does not. I know that it’s not rotting food and my house is clean. It’s to the point that I even smell it on my clothes when I’m not at my home! But, I think it’s a “phantom” smell. My sister went through the same thing. Will this be gone in a few weeks? – Phantom of the First Trimester
Ah, the olfactory hallucinations of pregnancy. We don’t miss ’em. You can read what we’ve said about the possible causes of increased or distorted smells here. The bottom line is that it’s hormonal and probably has some kind of fascinating (if repulsive) evolutionary back-story. Most women experience an increased sensitivity to smell in the first trimester, which can make life really miserable. For every nice smell, there’s usually a not so nice one around the corner: You’ll be stopping to smell the flowers: along with the microscopic smear of dog crap on the sidewalk ten feet away.
But it sounds like you’re enjoying some nonexistent odors: This is a lot less likely than increased sensitivity to smell, but it’s not uncommon. In a 2004 Swedish study, 76% of the pregnant women surveyed reported increased and distorted sense of smell; of that group, 14% experienced phantom smells. Like you, these women were not smelling imaginary clementines and daffodils but something “fecal or rotten.” The good news is that phantom smells were much less likely at thirty-four weeks than in the first trimester, and generally non-existent postpartum. Other studies (and most of our pregnant friends’ experiences) confirm that the gross smells tend to subside later in pregnancy along with symptoms of morning sickness.
Since these smells are basically “all in your head,” they may be hard to mask. You can try dabbing a pleasant fragrance under your nose, filling the house with flowers, or cracking every possible window to see if you can catch a break. But as far as lasting remedies go, time’s probably your best (and only) bet. At some point soon, you’re likely to find that these smells disappear as mysteriously as they appeared.
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