Friday, August 22, 2008

Only the Pregnant Nose Knows

"I was feeling fine just doing the dishes. I opened my husband's tupperware container that he brought home from lunch and the horrid smell sent me running to the bathroom!"

"I took one whiff of the green pepper- and onion-laced fajitas in the Mexican restaurant and I felt like I was going to faint."

"An over-applied men's cologne did it. It assaulted me! I just couldn't get within a few feet of that man without gagging."

"I absolutely cannot subject myself to the smell of cigarette smoke lately. It makes me nauseated within a few minutes."

These comments are sentiments only the female gender can truly understand. All of them have one thing in common: they come from a pregnant nose. Only during pregnancy can a woman detect scent from miles away. It makes for an adventurous nine months for certain, and possibly adds to the richness of her life as well. When else will the nose be as keen as a cat's? Or the world as rich in odor? An abundance of divine smells embrace her. Scents like fresh cut grass, lettuce, ginger, lemons, mint, rosemary, fresh cut flowers, and her beloved's skin can inspire a pleasure in her she has never known. On the contrary, scents that normally evade or seemingly disappear on her are the source of nagging discomfort and illness. The only solace is to completely remove the source of the odor, take a stroll in fresh air or bury her nose in an orange (which I have done quite often). In fact, the sense of smell is so closely linked to morning sickness during pregnancy that one study found anosmic (possessing no sense of smell) women never experience pregnancy-associated nausea.

What is the culprit for this heightened sense of smell? Hormones - those lovely chemicals responsible for sheltering the baby, keeping it cozy, warm and growing inside. Estrogen in this case is the primary offender. This essential female hormone is abundantly excreted in a pregnant woman's body. As unpleasant as the experience can be for Mama, estrogen has been shown in studies to be responsible for fetal maturation and maintaining the pregnancy. A very important role it possesses, indeed!

My personal experience has elicited the following smell aversions: every fragrance in my collection (much to my chagrin), meat, cigarettes (either freshly lit or lingering on a smoker's body), coffee, garlic, hairspray and most heavily scented cosmetics, my husband's Gris Clair by Serge Lutens (my apologies Mr. Lutens!) and many men's colognes, cleaning products, and ultimately anything with a very strong scent. Fortunately I have not had to rush to the bathroom. I simply avert my nose, leave the room ... and .... do not wear most of my perfumes. What an astonishing outcome and one that I never expected!

My personal theory says that these hormonal influences also protect our baby from noxious chemicals and other harmful substances. Why else would we cringe, vomit, or gag when faced with scents we could easily endure pre-pregnancy? These reactions require immediate response. It is as if our baby is reaching up and directing our physiological reactions, saying "Mom! Stop sniffing! Now! It's too much for me!" A beautiful thing is Mother Nature. I respect her immensely.

Fortunately, my estrogen levels must have dropped recently since I can endure more and more scents from my collection. This must be one of the benefits of being in the second half of my pregnancy. However, the amount I spray is a fraction of what I used to and I can smell most scents on my skin until I shower them off. This might be a good time to re-try scents that seemed to disappear on me before - scents like Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle (am I redeemed now?), Maitre Parfumer et Gantier Soie Rouge and Estee Lauder Azuree Oil. I will let you know how that experiment goes.

For the previously or currently pregnant, what were your smell aversions? What smells did you love?

20 comments:

tmp00 said...

glad to read that you're able to enjoy some of your scents again- nature is a funny thing, yes?

Brandi said...

Oh yes, the smell aversions! I had many when I was pregnant-- cigarettes, perfumes and colognes, the Del Taco down the road (I couldn't even drive past that place with the windows up in my car without gagging), and my dog. Ugh, dog!

chayaruchama said...

If that's you- I'll faint with delight !!!
[The epic boobs look about right..AHEM !]

I can't believe it- But I wore Ombre Bleue when I was pregnant w/ my first...YECCH !
I'd run out screaming, NOW.
SO fruity.

With Jacob, I tolerated much more, but overheated fishheads and gangrene were a NO GO.

It was hot- I wore L'Occitane's Mandarine Tilleul and Eau de Campagne , a lot.
The L'Artisan's tisane-types were easy on my nose- after all, it was full-on summertime.

Aren't our bodies wonderful ?

Sending your belly big kisses, sweetheart.
I miss you-

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous photo!! I just know that's you! When I was pregnant I couldn't wear any of my gourmand fragrances. I actually turned to L'Artisans Mimosa pour moi and even that nausiated me a bit. By the 4th month I felt was back and I could tolerate anything. But I found I was interested in smelling more like a woman instead of a kid doused in pink sugar. I remeber vividly around the 9th month buying L'ostmarch's Lan-ael and thinking it would be not only be comforting for my new little one but smell good on her if it inevitably transfered in our close contact. So magical. But in reality I'm sure it would be the smell of cabbage that my little one would remember if she could. Since that is what I wrapped my swollen lactating breasts with to stop the milk let down.( I produced milk very late, too late in fact, she was already happily attached to her bottle.) The cabbage leaves worked but to this day I hate the smell of cabbage and I wonder if she will too;-)

Leann said...

I'm so glad that you're back! I have missed your lovely and delicate way with words. I have no personal experience to share, but my closest friend is just coming out of her first trimester. Doing the dishes has been very difficult for her - I believe that "spaghetti plates" were the worst. =D

Leann said...

Whoops! Leann = toastyfrenchy.

TMH256 said...

Hello Tom,

Oh, yes!! Great to hear from you. I hope all is well your way in sunny So. Cal?

TMH256 said...

Brandi,

Oh, your poor dog!! I was going to mention that I love the smell of my cats lately. They don't have much of a scent but my pregnant nose enjoys their cuddly, warm essence. I can only imagine what dog would do to me in the first trimester. I'm sure you were out of the running for giving him a bath, eh? Nothing worse than WET, dirty dog!

Interestingly, I craved Taco Bell daily during my first month of pregnancy ... and only my first month. Funny thing. I hadn't set foot in a fast food restaurant in five years!

TMH256 said...

Oh, Ida I didn't even think about the heat and its effect on my nose. It's been over 100 degrees here since day one of my pregnancy! I'm sure that plays a major role in the scents that attract/abhor me. Overheated fishheads? Gangrene? I would say that would be a no in my book, too! Even NOT pregnant! Hehe!

So interesting to hear what you liked with each child. And thank you for the belly kisses. We both appreciate them! :-)

xo,
T

TMH256 said...

Hello Anonymous!

I've tried Mimosa pour Moi actually and it's a little too sweet. I most certainly identify with not wanting to smell like "a kid doused in pink sugar." I too have been drawn to more womanly and fresh-smelling scents. What a beautiful idea of having the scent transfer to your child! I'm rubbing my hands together at the thought of a scent we can BOTH wear. ;-) So sorry about the cabbage incident! I have never heard of that, but I can imagine women have used just about anything to ease their discomfort!

TMH256 said...

Toasty/leann!!

So nice to see you!! It feels great to be back. ;-) I wholeheartedly understand how a spaghetti plate could send one runnning for the hills! Just a little too much scent, for sure. I hope all is well with you and your wonderful husband!

Sharon said...

Ah yes. I am definitely just learning about this whole heightened smells thing. The bad part is that I have always had a gag reflex with smells, and my sense of smell has always managed to pick up many things. Now, it's just much, much worse...

So far, my biggest aversion has been pasta (particularly creamy white sauces, like alfredo) and fishy smells. Today at lunch, another teacher had reheated some leftovers with something fishy. Today was also the first time I had to run to the restroom after lunch. Coincidence, I'm sure... ;-)

I'm glad you are able to be smelling your perfumes again though! I'm sure you missed that.

tania said...

I've never been pregnant, but considering how good my sense of smell is anyway, that may be just as well! ;-)
I'm glad you are getting over the worst of it, and beginning to enjoy your collection again.

As it is, many smells turn my stomach, when others don't seem to notice them. For me, cigarette smoke is the worst. From many yards away in the open air, it makes me feel sick. Close up, or stalely permeating a room or a car, it has actually made me heave. Smokers don't seem to get how unpleasant it can be. They just think I'm making a fuss over nothing. Maybe one day I'll actually throw up over one, and they'll get the point... ;-)

italian girl said...

Hi T.
I am glad you are doing well-- and baby, too..
When pregnant with my first,I could not walk in the butcher area of a grocery store.. Seriously, made me gag. I also recall tomato sauce and doing the dishes were really difficult as well.
I had no issues with Pleasures by Estee Lauder as my perfume after the first 3 months of pregnancy I could wear it again..
With my son, the second, I don't remember anything making me gag as bad as my first pregnancy.. My first was a little girl as well...
Anyway, I was reading all the funny comments from your other bloggers and laughing out loud.. especially, the cabbage remarks. LOL. I had a similar experience as I was about 2 months pregnant during Oktoberfest and my workplace had ordered up a feast of german food.. sauerkraut, german potatoe salad, weinerschnitzel, etc. for all employess. To this day I cannot stomach any of this food as the odors and memory of it all can still make me vomit to this day. (14 years later).. sorry..

Ciao everybody and I am glad you are back!!

TMH256 said...

Sharon! I'm really hoping your nausea eases soon. ;-) And there should be a rule in the workplace about reheating smelly foods! It's as serious as harrassment in my book.

TMH256 said...

Tania,

I hear you! I don't think smokers realize (since their sense of smell is dulled) how powerful the smell of smoke is - not to mention the harmful effects of 2nd hand smoke.

TMH256 said...

Italian Girl! Thanks for the great comment! Pleasures is a nice, pleasant choice. I have always enjoyed it and could see wearing it during pregnancy. I cannot even imagine walking into a butcher shop right now. My stomach would turn instantly. I'll keep that in mind to avoid cabbage and all the fixings! ;-) Ciao bella.

*jen ~ Fifty-Cent Head said...

Hi. I'm here for the first time, and it was a delight to see this post (though it's not what I originally landed on).

I'm at 9 weeks in my 2nd pregnancy, and I can not stand the smell of just about anything...

Hotdogs for my toddler send me spinning, and pasta sauce is not much better. Faint smell of smoke? Gag. But other culprits include coffee, diet coke (!?), cheese, and all of my fragrances. All of them. When I was about 3 weeks, I got a great sample of Kings & Queens Myrrh body lotion to test and loved it. Now? Get that away from me, sister, or I'll throw it out the window! A foodie scent - NO. A deep ambery or earthy scent- absolutely no. Crisp, green, light or fresh - that's almost worse than all of the rest!


With my first pregnancy, the only thing that made me sick was the smell of the water in the faucet, which was bleach-ridden to my nose. I don't smell that now, but it's one of the only things. :)

Thanks so much for the post and the sense of not being alone.

TMH256 said...

Hi Jen,

Thanks for writing! Have you tried citrus? I noticed that wasn't on your list and it comforted me a lot in the beginning.

Congratulations on your pregnancy! A Happy and Healthy 9 moonths to you!

Anonymous said...

Im not sure if anyone will read this now its been so long since the last comment. but here goes anyway. . . i have to agree totally with jen. i am now almost ten weeks prego and i swear. . . i never want to be pregnant again. i cant stand the smell of anything hardly. dishes yuck cooking yuck laundry omg. when i put on a clean shirt i hurl. i can hardly walk into my house without holding my breath. i spend a lot of my time outside. my husband thinks im crazy. it wasnt like this during my first pregnancy that was a breeze. i can handle the smell of pizza oddly enough but only if i dont smell it cooking. hopefully the nausea will subside soon. i hear that it usually does.