There are a lot of things about pregnancy that you may hear about but don't truly understand until you've experienced them. People can tell you about babies using your bladder as a punching bag but it's hard to conceptualize until you've felt it. The same goes for watching your belly move around like you're about to star in that scene from Alien. And while you may think you know all about pregnancy nose, better known as dog nose, until you've actually been able to smell your partner's dirty socks from across the house or been accosted by the scent of an open refrigerator, you literally have no idea.
Pregnancy Nose, Explained
No one really knows why pregnant people develop the sense of smell of a bloodhound—but there's no doubt that it happens and happens a lot. Studies found that as many as two-thirds of pregnant folks report an increased ability to perceive odors. There has been speculation that it's an evolutionary mechanism developed to prevent a person carrying a child from ingesting toxins. There's also evidence that this heightened nose power can trigger nausea and vomiting that's so common in pregnancy.
For some, this increased sensitivity can last throughout pregnancy and even linger into the postpartum period, according to a study published in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics. And wow, can it be intense. Normal, everyday smells can become overwhelming—things as mundane as your longtime hand lotion or favorite foods can push you over the edge into avoidance, or even worse, can send you to the bathroom to lose your breakfast.
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But what if that repulsive smell is coming from something or someone you can't avoid? What if it's your partner? It's true, during pregnancy the love of your life could literally make you want to vomit. If you've spent any time in pregnancy message boards or groups you've likely read at least a few posts about partners and their awful funk.
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When Good Smells Go Bad
"With my daughter, I banned my husband from eating hummus," says Jenna, a mom from Allentown, Pennsylvania, says. "He smelled so bad after it." And those scent memories can linger, even once the pregnancy is long over. "My skin still crawls thinking about it and this is over five years later," she explains. "He had olive hummus one day at lunch, and I made him immediately shower, brush his teeth, and throw his clothes in the wash and the smell wouldn't go away. It was terrible. I couldn't get near him."
Lauren, another Pennsylvania mom, had to ask her husband to stop using the couch throw pillows. "I can smell him on the pillows—and the couch, and his clean towels, and everything else. I know it's just pregnancy related because it started as soon as I got pregnant this time," she explains. "It's his entire, I don't know, musk? His breath, his sweat, the smell of his head—not his hair, which smells like shampoo, but the underlying smell of his scalp—it all has such an earthy musky smell and it makes me gag."
Reddit is also full of pregnant people bemoaning their partner's assault on their uber-sensitive pregnant noses. "Since getting pregnant I think he smells. Like his body odor," writes one pregnant Redditor. "It's a sour, 'old-man' type smell that I can't quite put my finger on. I feel terrible about it." She adds that it's so bad it's impacting their, ahem, alone time. "I want to have sexy-time with him, but I'm so turned off by the smell, and then his breath to boot! He hasn't changed his eating habits, he's super fit, and looks great, so I don't think it's a health thing. He's very healthy. Sometimes I cringe when he comes to hug me because it's so strong to me. The other day I had to roll down the windows in the car because of the smell. I know that pregnancy can make your smell stronger, but this is crazy."
• RELATED: Body Odor During Pregnancy - "Do I Smell?"
Surviving Pregnancy Nose
Take heart, super-smellers: the sensitivity does end. Maybe not the second you give birth, but it does end. "I experienced this big-time around 15-20 weeks. It wasn't just my husband though, I could smell EVERYONE," writes another Redditor. "Like their skin and their hair. The worst! It's much better now (27 weeks) and now my husband smells SO GOOD. Pregnancy is weird, yo."
If your partner is making your gag reflex kick in, giving them a gentle nudge in the direction of the body wash and deodorant aisle at Target might be in your best interest. Or surprise them with a brand new assortment of products—handpicked and nose-checked by you—to help you make it through to your due date.