Pregnancy is a magical time, but dignified it most certainly is not! There are many pregnancy-related taboos, things that women don't like to talk about as they pretend they really are glowing, both inside and out. Let's face it, we get fatter, we get bigger feet, we grow hair in places no hair should ever be, and we're gassy! How attractive. But there's one other pregnancy secret that is kept very hush-hush amongst pregnant women: we smell!
While we may have smelled like sunshine and roses before getting pregnant, pregnancy and breastfeeding can significantly alter body odors. It's not particularly pleasant, but there's very little we can do about it. So ladies, stock up on the deodorant, we're going to need it!
Why Do We Smell?
There are really three main reasons why our signature smell changes during pregnancy, and remains stronger in the first few months after birth when we're likely to be breastfeeding. Let's take a look at why we smell a little past our best:
The first reason is down to a change in hormones, which causes stronger smells in the genitals, and from the armpits. Hormones have long been associated with smell, which is evident in the pheromones both humans and adults give off when they're at their most fertile times. It's a way of ensuring continuation of different species. Of course, while you're pregnant, your smells aren't trying to get you laid, you've already done what nature wanted you to do, but the raging sex hormones racing around your body can alter smells. Women with hormone imbalances, such as those with polycystic ovary syndrome, are often more vulnerable to body odor for this same reason.
Moving on to the second reason, this one is really quite simple. Becoming bigger, carrying more weight, and having more insulation keeping us warmer, we are naturally more likely not only to sweat, but to have a lower threshold for dealing with heat and warmth, so we can sweat even on cold days. Sweat itself doesn't smell, and it's the body's way of trying to cool us down, but once the sweat hits the skin, bacteria begins to grow, and this is what smells. If sweating is a big problem, try taking things easy, don't rush around like a blue-arsed fly, go at a slower pace and see if there's any improvement.
The final reason for these odor changes is all to do with nature and evolution striving to ensure our newborn survives and is healthy. When babies are born, their hearing and eyesight are very poor compared to adults, but their sense of smell is spot on. They're a bit like cats and dogs in this way, in that they use smell as a method of recognition. As strange as it may seem, your baby can recognise you by the smell you give off, so the body's natural instinct is to produce a strong smell to make it easier for baby. Smells from the armpits are especially handy in encouraging babies to turn their heads to the breast for feeding.
Is It Really That Bad?
Don't panic! Although you probably think you smell like a sewer, it's very unlikely other people will notice. While it's true that you probably will smell more, what you yourself smell is partially due to changes in your personal sense of smell. Before pregnancy, had you ever noticed that you noticed smells more just before your period was due? And when you first conceived, did you find that certain smells that had never been problematic suddenly made you feel nauseous? It's thought that high levels of estrogen make it easier for us to detect smells at certain times of our menstrual cycle, as a way of sniffing out a suitable mate, but with high estrogen levels also present during pregnancy, we seem to become human sniffer dogs. So don't worry, however bad you may think it is, it's really not!
We can't do anything to get rid of body odor during pregnancy entirely, but we can reduce how much we smell by maintaining good personal hygiene, and by using a few little tips and tricks. When taking a shower, have a container nearby filled with warm water and a few drops of fresh lemon. Use this to wash, and then rinse with another container filled with warm water and honey. The combined smells will help counteract body odor, and the honey rinse will leave your skin feeling soft and smooth (and it may even help with stretch marks!). If you prefer to have a bath, boil some mint leaves first and add them to the water for a refreshing and nice smelling soak.
Of course, you should watch what you eat too, as diet can have a huge effect on body odor. Try to stay away from very pungent foods such as onions, garlic, and currys or anything else containing strong Indian or Mexican spices. Make sure you limit your caffeine intake too, as this is yet another source of bad smells.