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Dysgeusia: The Little-Known Pregnancy Symptom

Dysgeusia: The Little-Known Pregnancy Symptom

Last updated on May 16th, 2022 at 05:58 pm

You are finally getting used to the idea of being pregnant and all of a sudden everything tastes like you’ve been licking pennies? Is that a terribly bitter taste? Yes. Gross? Yes. Normal? Yes. Craving pickles and ice cream? There’s a reason for it! As with all things pregnancy, dysgeusia is just another fun little symptom you might have to learn to deal with for a while.

Along with your odd sense of smell, growing belly, and extreme fatigue, you may be dealing with a wacky sense of taste during pregnancy. It’s almost as if your taste receptors are going crazy in there! You might think it is about oral hygiene. It isn’t. Brushing your teeth may provide VERY temporary relief but once that wears off, your sense of taste will be just as funky as it was before. 

a pregnant woman sitting on a couch eating a salad with dysgeusia

What is dysgeusia?

Feeling like your taste buds might be going completely crazy? You aren’t alone! This is a common first-trimester symptom called dysgeusia. Dysgeusia is defined as a condition where a person’s sense of taste is altered. That means that everything has a sweet, sour, bitter, or metallic taste. Many women experience it during their pregnancy, especially as their bodies are adjusting to the new surge of hormones racing through their bodies. 

Dysgeusia itself doesn’t directly affect changes in your food cravings or aversions. But it can make some foods taste bitter or just downright awful. Often, you will find this with foods that leave an aftertaste, like those made with artificial sweeteners and preservatives. You should try to stay away from them anyway!

Some mineral waters can also increase the taste of metal in your mouth. It might be best to stick to good old-fashioned water for a while. Also, try using toothpaste that contains baking soda and scrape your tongue after brushing your teeth. Baking soda will definitely help to neutralize the bad tastes.

a bowl of fruit and popsicles on a piece of wax paper on top of a wood table for dysgeusia

So, what’s the good news?

The good news is that as your pregnancy progresses and your hormones settle down, the off-putting taste should fade away. In that way, it is similar to morning sickness. If you just can’t wait for it to fade there are some ways to help keep Dysgeusia in check. Medically speaking, no treatment can get rid of the metallic taste you experience in pregnancy but some dietary changes you can make include eating sugar-free mints or sugarless gum can help.

You can try eating cold foods like ice cubes and popsicles. Eating sour foods often helps counter the metallic taste too. That’s why so many women crave pickles! Saltine crackers not only help with heartburn and nausea but can dull strange tastes. If all else fails be sure to opt for plastic silverware instead of metal.

Marinate meats in vinegar, soy sauce, or citrus juices. Sour foods can stimulate taste buds and saliva production causing the bad taste to dilute. If sweet foods are making you wretch, try adding a little bit of salt (a tiny bit) to tone down foods like fruits. You might also want to try more sour tastes in your diet. When all else fails, savory snacks, such as cheese or peanut butter should get you through this early pregnancy symptom. 

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Things to look out for

There are some medical explanations for dysgeusia (loss of taste function) aside from pregnancy. Your sense of taste can be affected by: 

-Taking vitamins or supplements including your prenatal vitamins.

-over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications, be sure to check with your doctor before you stop or start any medications.

-common cold or infections in the mouth. Especially cold sores or other mouth lesions.

-If you suffer from dry mouth. This is a side effect of some medications. Make sure to check with your pharmacist if you start a new medication.

-If you have diabetes.

-If you have gingivitis. Make sure you visit your dentist regularly. Don’t skip a check-up because you are pregnant. 

-If you suffer from kidney or liver disease.

-You have cancer or are going through cancer treatments.

-If you have had heavy metal or chemical exposure. Be sure to tell your provider about any potential exposures. This is very important. Your doctor needs a complete medical history to properly care for you and your babies.

-If you have certain dental appliances or fillings. 

a pregnant woman eating off a spoon while holding a bowl after dysgeusia

Dysgeusia won’t last too long

As your hormone levels and body adjust to being pregnant with two bundles of joy, many of the first-trimester symptoms should start to fade into a distant memory. Not everyone will experience all these symptoms either but a lot of people suffer for at least a few weeks with Dysgeusia. 

Does having Dysgeusia mean I am having twins? No. The short answer is no. The longer answer is that there is zero medical evidence that supports this claim. There is no way to know for sure you are having twins until you see those two babies on the screen or hear their heartbeats. You also can’t tell the gender of your babies by the food or smell aversions you might be having.

Rising estrogen, increasing levels of progesterone, prolactin, and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) are the only thing to blame for you wanting to toss your cookies at the taste of your favorite cookie. 

When all else fails, stay away from the unpleasant taste of foods that make you want to hurl and wait it out with your testy taste buds. It will be over before you know it. Take this time to really enjoy the tangy of pickles and the sweet taste of ice cream or the cheese and watermelon. Sit back, put your feet up and revel in what your body is capable of doing. 

laura birks headshotLaura Birks is a freelance writer and essayist. She lives in New Jersey with her twin boys, a dog, a couple of cats, and a husband. When she’s not doling out medicine or cleaning up vomit, she is writing. Her house is in a constant state of disarray and the laundry is never put away. She likes to pretend she is superwoman but the truth is, she is a mere mortal with a messy house. Find her on TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest


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