Some pregnant women even report phantom smells, where they can detect an odor despite its lack of physical presence. Luckily, only around 14 percent of pregnant women tested in the 2004 Chemical Senses' study reported any abnormality in the occurrence of a phantom smell in the first trimester. However, the most commonly reported phantom odor resembled that of rotting substances or feces. (Yuck!)
For the peace of mind of expecting moms everywhere, phantom smell is pretty rare. As far as odor aversion goes, there's a lot you can do to be nice to your nose.
How to Cope
Regardless of the culprit, it is best to avoid the offending odor as much as possible, says Dr. Sears. To be on the safe side, try to avoid all strong odors, especially those with a harsh chemical smell. One way to do this is to have someone else do the cooking while you're dealing with morning sickness, suggests Dr. Sears. This way, once you emerge from the bathroom with a calm tummy, you won't be thrown back into an upset as soon as the scent of grease or food hits your nose.
Fish is vital to the expecting mom's health, Dr. Sears adds, but sensitivity to the smell of fish can make it rather difficult to consume. He suggests taking a DHA supplement instead, allowing pregnant women to gain the benefits of eating fish without having to actually choke it down.
Another way to deal with an aversion to certain smells is to introduce new foods as replacements. For instance, if the scent of scrambled eggs sends you heaving at breakfast, try replacing them with a bowl of cereal or oatmeal. If you used to love tuna sandwiches for lunch, replace the fish with turkey or chicken.
You can also keep a pleasant-smelling air freshener on hand to battle noxious odors. Just make sure the air freshener scent doesn't upset your stomach as well!
Many of the ways to deal with olfactory sensitivity are the same or similar to those for dealing with morning sickness. When a bout of odor-related nausea strikes, try eating something salty, such as saltine crackers or pretzels, to calm the stomach. It may also help to eat several small meals throughout the day rather than three large ones. This helps to keep your blood pressure stabilized and your stomach from being empty—two things that potentially lead to morning sickness. You can also try lying down at the onset of nausea, leaving the area from which the culprit odor is coming from first, of course.
Rest assured, this odd period of pregnancy won't last long. Most women cease having olfactory sensitivity (and the resulting morning sickness) early in their second trimester. Until then, hold your nose!