Altered Taste During Pregnancy

by Mark Moore, MD

Pregnancy causes changes in almost every system in the body. Increased water retention dilutes the blood volume and causes edema of the cells. This, plus increased levels of estrogens and progesterones are thought to play a role in these changes, even in structures like the tastebuds, the small but complex sensory organs of taste. The medical term: "dysguesia" meaning an altered sense of taste, accounts for this difference in perception.

Everyone will have their own preferences, but a heightened sense of bitter-taste early in pregnancy is often seen. Diet-soda, artificial sweeteners, even water can leave an aftertaste. Much of our food is processed with ingredients that beforehand would have gone unnoticed.

Dysguesia is not to be confused with cravings that occur in pregnancy, commonly to foods like ice-cream, pickles or chocolate, or aversions which are new repulsions to previously liked foods. Sometimes a pregnant woman may sense a funny taste in her mouth even when not eating. Again different presentations with a related root cause -- elevated hormone levels and/or increased body edema and water retention. Some researchers feel a concomitant increase in the sense of smell may play a role. Others state that there is an evolutionary protection built into these changes: that is, they help a pregnant mother balance and replace needed nutrients in the body, such as sodium and calcium.

Suggestions for dealing with these changes include:

  • Alter your diet to accommodate these new likes and dislikes
  • Start your meal with dry crackers to attenuate strong tastes
  • Chew a flavored gum, sugarless mint or ice chips
  • Try spicy foods because the numbing effect they can have sometimes helps

Notwithstanding the above, the mother-to-be must navigate the dietary waters with care. A balanced diet and maintenance of suggested weight guidelines are critical to a successful pregnancy and safe delivery.

Mark Moore, MD is an experienced Anesthesiologist, sub-specializating in women's and children's anesthesia. He holds board certifications in both Anesthesiology and Pain Management. Dr. Moore and his wife, Lisa, a pediatric nurse, are the authors of Baby Girl or Baby Boy. They live in Tallahassee, Florida.

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