One of my first signs of pregnancy came in the form of a disagreement with my husband about broccoli. We’d recently ordered broccoli with sautéed garlic from our favorite Italian place, but when I went to reheat it for dinner a few days later, I was certain it was spoiled.
The broccoli, which looked fine and which had tasted delicious just a few days ago, tasted and smelled just awful. Rancid, bitter, and faintly metallic.
“Oh my God, what’s wrong with this broccoli?” I asked my husband, practically retching as I began to shovel it into the trash.
My husband stopped me and asked to take a bite. “Ummm, it’s perfectly fine,” he said.
I thought he must have lost his mind (or his sense of taste) and we went back and forth for a bit, each thinking the other was off their rocker. I don’t remember what eventually became of that cursed broccoli, but I forgot about the incident until a week later when I got a positive pregnancy test.
It turns out my husband was probably right, and that the broccoli was just fine. It was my own sense of taste that was a mess, as a result of my pregnancy hormones. In fact, foods tasting spoiled and having a slight metallic flavor was one of my earliest pregnancy signs, both times I was pregnant.
And I’m definitely not alone.
If Everything Tastes Like A Pile Of Pennies, It’s Probably Dysgeusia
It’s very common for your sense of taste (and smell, too) to be completely bonkers in early pregnancy. You can blame it on your pregnancy hormones, which can cause you to have a condition called dysgeusia, which is when your sense of taste changes. Dysgeusia can cause things to taste generally “off.” People describe it as causing things they eat to taste more bitter, metallic, or sour.
Pregnancy isn’t the only thing that causes dysgeusia. According to The Cleveland Clinic, in addition to pregnancy, poor oral hygiene, infections, allergies, chemical exposures, and certain prescription medications and vitamins can cause dysgeusia. COVID-19 can also cause dysgeusia, as it can cause you to lose your sense of smell and taste, and also just make your taste buds get all out of sorts, causing symptoms like a metallic taste in your mouth.
Besides your pregnancy itself, sometimes your prenatal vitamins can cause a metallic or bitter taste in your mouth, so that’s something to look into as well. Personally, I wasn’t able to touch the prenatal vitamins I was prescribed because they made me gag. It’s important to make sure you are getting nutrients like folic acid, though, so ask your healthcare provider about alternatives if your prenatal vitamins are too gross to handle.
Dysgeusia, as well as changes in your sense of smell, are super common in pregnancy. A study published in Chemical Senses found that 76% of pregnant people have changes in their taste and smell. 26% experienced abnormal tastes, describing foods as tasting more bitter, and also reporting a decreased sensitivity to salt (maybe that’s why pregnant people often crave more salty foods, to make up for the deficit?).
Interestingly, the study also found that 14% of pregnant people reported experiencing “phantom smells,” meaning that they smelled things that weren’t actually there. I can personally attest to that! I remember smelling hideous perfume that no one smelled but me, gas coming from the stove that was apparently all in my head … and the list goes on.
Is There Anything You Can Do About Dysgeusia During Pregnancy?
The good news is that for most of us, dysgeusia, similar to morning sickness, usually disappears after the first trimester of pregnancy. Of course, like morning sickness, some people deal with this symptom for longer.
Because dysgeusia during pregnancy is usually influenced by hormones, there’s not much you can do besides wait for some of those early pregnancy hormones to settle down. But if it’s really bothering you, and definitely if it’s making it difficult for you to eat and keep food down, there are a few things you can do to try to mitigate the “coins in your mouth” symptoms.
The American Pregnancy Association recommends brushing your teeth more often, including brushing the toothbrush along your tongue. Using minty mouthwash or breath mints is another option. You can also try rinsing your mouth with a mixture of ½ teaspoon salt plus ½ teaspoon baking soda in a cup of warm water. Personally, that sounds a little gag-worthy to me, but you never know.
Other recommendations include drinking fruit juices, eating citrus fruits, and consuming foods marinated in vinegar. I definitely craved citrus fruits in pregnancy—maybe it was to help counter that bitter taste in my mouth. And we all know that pregnancy and pickles go together just perfectly.
Again, you can also consider trying a different prenatal vitamin if you think that’s contributing to the metallic taste in your mouth. If nothing is helping, and you are really suffering, you should always reach out to your doctor or midwife for advice. This issue is definitely something they see often, and they should have some good advice for you.
Dysgeusia (and all the nauseating, pukey realities of early pregnancy) can really suck. But it does eventually go away. I promise.