Smells Pregnant Women Hate

Smells really bother pregnant women.
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When you are pregnant, your olfactory sense, your sense of smell may be heightened. This can mean that smells that you never noticed before are right in your face and overwhelming. Most of the time you might think it’s no big deal, but many pregnant women report gagging or becoming ill over a smell in the area.

The hard part about it is that there isn’t really a way to predict with any accuracy who will be overly sensitive to a particular smell. In fact, smells that you once loved may now give you a headache or make you want to hurl. Though when asked, many pregnant women had some categories of smells that seemed to top their lists over and over. They include:

Food Products

When you’re pregnant, you might have a love/hate relationship with food. One day you crave something, the next day you’re gagging at the thought of it. The smell of coffee in the morning used to get you out of bed and ready to tackle the day, now the only thing you tackle is the toilet bowl. Certainly, the biggest offenders are foods that linger and are already pungent, like onions, garlic, curry, etc. But there are also smells that you just can’t stomach for whatever reason including spaghetti sauce, fried foods, syrups that are heavily flavored.


Fresh cut lawns, new spring flower buds, and other nature scents are often popular offenders. One mom said that she wound up wearing a mask outdoors, just to avoid the once loved smells of spring. One mom even said that she couldn’t stand the normally loved smell of the ocean.

Normally Avoided Smells

There is a whole category of smells that we don’t normally like to smell. This would include smells like garbage, the litter box, etc. What is different is the physical reaction to the smells, in addition to the level of smell needed to trigger a reaction. You might find that you need to take the garbage out more frequently or use something that you can tolerate to mask any odors. More than one mom has admitted to throwing up while taking out the garbage, even as early as five weeks pregnant. And yes, you can regulate this chore to someone else, but you will still likely have a garbage can in your kitchen.


Yes, people smell. And I’m not talking about co-workers with bad hygiene, although they certainly don’t help. This tends to be the stuff that people wear. It could be deodorant or perfume. It might also be at a level you never would had noticed had you not had super schnozz activated by baby. But being pregnant can turn even the slightest hint of cologne into a teenage boy covered in Axe body spray levels.

Your Pets

Wet dog is one thing, but pregnant woman versus wet dog – ouch! That said, while certain pet smells and chores, like walking, changing the cat's litter box, and curbing the dog were unable to be performed, other women reported that their four-legged pets were just “gross” smelling to them. Another woman reported that her fish’s water was gagging her, even after the tank had been thoroughly cleaned.


In this category, I would place things like paint, nail polish, household cleaners, and gasoline. These are obviously things that can cause harm if you sniff them. They all come with labels to be used in well-ventilated areas in general. That said, you may find, even if you were someone who liked these smells before, that they now bother you. Avoid them at all costs.

If you read this and feel like I’ve said you should avoid:

  • people
  • food
  • outdoors
  • indoors
  • chores
  • pets

You’d be right. But we all know that it isn’t possible. The good news is that many women while maintaining the heightened level of smell, don’t continue feeling as grossed out to everything past the first trimester. And you may not experience any nasal issues at all, or just a few. I’ve not found many women who experienced aversions to everything on this list. So figure out where your sensitivities are and avoid those as much as possible. Breathe through your mouth to lessen the smell. And if you can mask it with a scent of your own, like a flavored lip gloss—do whatever it takes!

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Li Q, Liberles SD. Aversion and Attraction Through Olfaction. Curr Biol. 2015;25(3):R120-R129. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2014.11.044

  3. Hjortebjerg D, Andersen AM, Garne E, Raaschou-Nielsen O, Sørensen M. Non-occupational exposure to paint fumes during pregnancy and risk of congenital anomalies: a cohort studyEnviron Health. 2012;11:54. doi:10.1186/1476-069X-11-54

  4. Cameron EL. Pregnancy and olfaction: A review. Front Psychol. 2014;5:67. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00067

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.