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Why Preferences Change During Pregnancy

If a woman complains that she used to adore coffee, but now the smell of it is enough to make her sick, or if she says that she used to have a smoke every half an hour, but now avoids smoke-filled rooms, many would ask the question, "Dear, are you pregnant?" Just how do doctors explain such a sharp changes in preference for certain smells and tastes?

The exotic food desires of future mothers and their drastic changes in taste, were noticed a long time ago. Only the deaf did not hear the jokes about the husband who runs out at night in his pajamas to search for peaches or pickles for his pregnant wife... During this period, a passionate admirer of pickles can be simply mad about candies, and, vice versa, a person who normally can’t live without chocolate, ice cream and jam may prefer salty or spicy food. The survey conducted by the grocery company Cow & Gate showed that more than 60% of pregnant women feel drawn to mixing absolutely incompatible products. Among them - lemon with salt and pepper, ice-cream and potato chips with mustard, and many other combinations.


"Speaking of smells, during the whole first trimester I could not stand kitchen smells at all, especially pungent smells like that of fried onions. And in general, my sense of smell had become much stronger!" (Mary B., Kansas)


"As for me, during pregnancy I became fond of a common smell… soap! Even regular baby soap, I almost wanted to eat it! And even now (my daughter’s already 10 months old) when I open a new cake of soap, I lick it once or twice..." (Samantha W., New Mexico)


"My early pregnancy was during the end of spring/the beginning of summer, when everyone opened their windows. My sense of smell became so strong, that I could easily tell what dish was prepared in the next house". (Violet R., Alabama)


"Previously, I liked perfumes with a strong flower aroma. But during the first months of my pregnancy I began to hate it and grew fond of light, fresh smells..." (Jessica K., Arizona)


Let's try to deduce the reasons for these changes. There is no unified theory, but here are the most popular points of view:




The theory of "accusing" progesterone for all the follies of pregnant women is the most basic one (for the most part all theories base themselves around this idea).


At the beginning of pregnancy, the so-called dominant of pregnancy is formed in the cerebral cortex. It helps a woman to prepare for childbirth, both physically and psychologically.


The dominant of pregnancy is defined by the stimulation a part of the pregnant woman’s brain, arising after the ovum attaches to the endometrium. It is caused by the constant reception of signals from the uterus in the brain. The dominant is triggered by hormones – most notably, the raised production of progesterone.


Progesterone is synthesized by the ovaries, placenta and the adrenal glands. From the moment of the attachment of the fetal egg to the wall of the uterus, the intensified production of progesterone begins. Progesterone promotes the maintenance of pregnancy (it suppresses the activity of smooth muscles of the uterus; influences the central nervous system and supports the generated dominant of pregnancy; stimulates preparation of mammary glands and growth of the uterus; suppresses the rejection of the fetal egg). The progesterone content in the mother’s blood initially grows irregularly, it doubles by the 7th to 8th week, and then gradually raises for up to 37-38 weeks.


A higher progesterone level is sometimes a medical condition for which there is a need for replacement therapy; a lower hormone level indicates renal insufficiency (impairment of its excretion). Production of progesterone completely stops only if there are great changes in the placenta, such as the occurrence of a stillbirth.


We can attribute the most basic changes during pregnancy to a raised progesterone level. It’s progesterone that starts the cascade of biochemical changes in female body. It also jump starts the so-called "searcher" into finding necessary resources of endocrines and nutrients in a mother’s body to secure over the course of pregnancy. In other words, this hormone detects the lack of some elements, and "programs" the liquidation of all deficiencies. As a result, a mother’s system receives a command to satisfy the deficit, and it provokes the desire to eat various things. For example, when there’s a shortage of calcium, the woman wants to eat chalk, in case of an ascorbic and folic acid deficit – she prefers green vegetables, when there’s lack of vitamin B - she desires to drink beer. At the same time, the ‘searcher’ sees to it that the woman does not eat anything harmful to herself or the child. For this purpose, there are changes in the gastrointestinal path which help facilitate this process of pushing through improper food

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