Losing smell and/or taste during pregnancy
Some of my patients reported to me that they lost their sense of smell (medical terminology: hyposmia/anosmia) and taste (medical terminology: hypogeusia/ageusia) every time they became pregnant. They said that every once in a while they would get a whiff of something, but then it would be gone. Losing your smell is called "hyposmia" or "anosmia",
Heightened sense of smell (hyperosmia) in pregnancy
Having an increased sense of smell, something more associated with pregnancy is called "hyperosmia". Many pregnant women experience hyperosmia during pregnancy, which is a heightened sense of smell, the opposite of anosmia (absence of smell) or hyposmia (decrease of smell).
COVID-19 and loss of taste and/or smell
There is little that typically links pregnancy and losing taste and/or smell, but instead of becoming almost nauseated by overwhelming smells women do report losing their sense of smell occasionally during pregnancy. Howevcer, with the arrival of COVID-19 infections, many infected persons report loss of smell and/or loss of taste among their infectious symptoms. In some people losing smell and/or taste is often the most severe symptom and taste/smell usually come back after recovery from the virus infection. If you have a loss of taste and/or smell, you should talk immediately to your doctor to make sure it is nothing serious like a COVID-19 infection.
Decrease of taste (hypogeusia) and loss of taste (ageusia)
Oftentime, anosmia (loss of smell) is caused by allergies, a genetic predisposition, nasal polyps, and certain drugs like antibiotics, antidepressants, and anti-inflammatory medications. It’s also caused by exposure to toxic chemicals and cocaine abuse. Most women who experience anosmia during pregnancy report that it begins early and generally goes away shortly after giving birth. The only symptoms associated with anosmia are loss of smell.
Causes of losing smell/taste
If you lose your sense of taste and/or smell, the first thing you should do is let your doctor know. It could be a sign of COVID-19 infection. Beside the infection, there are many other potentiall causes of losing taste/smell and a thorough work-up is usually needed to find out what it could be.
Though the reasons why some women lose their sense of smell during pregnancy is a mystery, there are plenty of reasons why women experience hyperosmia during pregnancy. In one study published in the Oxford journal Chemical Senses, one hundred nonsmoking women who were pregnant, postpartum, or had never been pregnant before were tested using the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test. In correlation with previous reports, 90% of pregnant women reported that specific odors smelled less pleasant and 60% of the pregnant women reported that some odors smelled more pleasant.
At the end of the study however, it was found that the scientific evidence for women being more sensitive to odors during pregnancy was limited and inconclusive. Most evidence for heightened smell has been anecdotal and it seems that just as many women also experience hyposmia, or a reduced sense of smell, just as often during pregnancy. Anosmia is still not as common as hyperosmia and hyposmia, but isn’t all that uncommon for women to experience at some point during their pregnancy, even if just for a few weeks.
- Cameron, L. E. (2007). Measures of human olfactory perception during pregnancy. Chemical Senses, 32(8), 775-782.