Smell sensitive sense of

■ 1st trimester

You normally love the smell of bacon cooking and coffee brewing, but now that you're pregnant these odors make you gag. Your co-worker's perfume makes you feel sick, and you have to fight off nausea when you fill up the gas tank. Research confirms that pregnant women have a sharper sense of smell — they notice odors that they don't normally notice, and previously acceptable smells become repugnant. This heightened sense of smell is also connected to the nausea and vomiting that many pregnant women experience. A variety of odors, such as foods cooking, coffee, perfume, cigarette smoke or particular foods, can trigger nausea.

A sensitive sense of smell may be due in part to the increase in estrogen during pregnancy. Like nausea, this symptom may indicate a rapidly growing placenta and embryo, and that's a good sign. In mice, the fluctuations in smell-controlling brain cells are linked to the hormone prolactin, a hormone which is also found in human pregnancy. Most women find this symptom to tightly parallel nausea in pregnancy, so it usually improves by 13 to 14 weeks.

■ Self-care for sensitive sense of smell

To keep your overactive olfactory cells from getting the best of you, be aware of the odors that trigger or aggravate your nausea, and avoid them whenever possible. You might have to eat lunch at your desk instead of the cafeteria. Or you may have to ask a co-worker not to wear a particular perfume or cologne until your nausea subsides, usually in the second trimester.

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