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Olfaction During Pregnancy and Postpartum Period

Abstract

Introduction

Studies of the effect of pregnancy on olfactory function are contradictory—some report reduced function, others hypersensitivity, and still others no change at all. Our objectives were to quantify olfactory function in women during gestational and puerperal periods, to compare the olfactory test scores to those of non-pregnant women, and to explore the potential influence of rhinitis on olfactory function during these periods.

Methods

We evaluated olfactory function in 206 women with and without rhinitis—47 in the first trimester of pregnancy, 33 in the second, 44 in the third, 32 in the postpartum period, and 50 who were non-pregnant. Olfactory assessment was performed using the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) and ratings of the pleasantness and intensity of four common odors.

Results

Although total UPSIT scores did not differ among the study groups, pregnant and postpartum women identified some odors less well than did the controls. Pregnant women, especially in the first trimester, tended to consider some smells less pleasant. Rhinitis was adversely associated with the olfactory test scores of the pregnant and postpartum women.

Conclusions

The overall olfactory function of postpartum and pregnant women did not differ compared to controls; however, detection of some individual UPSIT items was adversely impacted (e.g., menthol, gingerbread, gasoline). Rhinitis was associated with reduced olfaction during pregnancy and puerperium.

Implications

These findings support the view that pregnancy-related alterations in smell are idiosyncratic, present only for some odorants, and may be impacted by the presence of rhinitis that commonly occurs during pregnancy.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Nurse Daiane Silva for her help in the collection of data and Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) for the financial support.

Statement of Authorship

Prof Fornazieri, Drs Prina, Silva, Ueda, and Favoreto conducted the data collection, conducted the analyses, drafted the initial manuscript, and revised the manuscript. Prof Fornazieri, Drs Prina, Pinna, Silva, and Favoreto conceptualized and designed the study and critically reviewed the manuscript; Profs Doty, Cameron, and Fornazieri provided statistical guidance and critically reviewed the manuscript; Profs Voegels and Doty coordinated the study and all authors approved the final manuscript as submitted.

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Correspondence to Marco Aurélio Fornazieri.

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Funding

This work was supported by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (2015/10195-9).

Conflict of Interest

RLD receives funding from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. He is a consultant to Acorda Therapeutics, Eisai Co., Ltd., Merck, and Johnson & Johnson. He receives royalties from Cambridge University Press, Johns Hopkins University Press, and John Wiley & Sons, Inc. He is President of, and major shareholder in, Sensonics International, the manufacturer and distributor of smell and taste tests, including the UPSIT.

Ethical Approval

The protocol was approved by the Institutional Research Board at Londrina State University.

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Volunteers signed a written informed consent prior to participation.

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Fornazieri, M.A., Prina, D.M.C., Favoreto, J.P.M. et al. Olfaction During Pregnancy and Postpartum Period. Chem. Percept. 12, 125–134 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12078-019-09259-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12078-019-09259-7

Keywords

  • Olfaction disorders
  • Smell
  • Pregnancy
  • Postpartum period
  • Olfactory perception
  • Rhinitis