One of the more unusual niggles of pregnancy is a strange metallic taste in the mouth. It starts as an almost subtle, unpleasant taste which is difficult to describe. But it is very real and has a name: dysgeusia – the medical term for a change of taste in your mouth.
Dysgeusia commonly occurs in the first trimester and usually goes away as pregnancy progresses. The taste or sensation is described as having a mouthful of loose change, or sucking on a hand rail. It can also present as a sour taste which permeates the taste of food and the mouth even when it is empty. Some women refer to this taste sensation as “metal mouth”.
Unfortunately dysgeusia occurs just at the time when pregnancy nausea is more likely to occur. Dealing with a queasy stomach is hard enough and having a bad metallic taste in your mouth can really make things worse. Many women who deal successfully with nausea find that this also helps to improve the taste sensation in their mouth.
What's to blame?
Oestrogen is to blame for the change in sensitivity to certain scents and odours during pregnancy. Due to the intimate relationship between the sense of smell and taste, it is believed that this same hormone (responsible for sensitivity to smell) causes the metallic taste in the mouth – especially on waking.
The effect of oestrogen tends to fade as you move into the second trimester, so the taste of metal in the mouth will hopefully fade as pregnancy progresses.
Dysgeusia can also be caused by water retention. This affects the whole body and the mouth is not excluded, particularly the taste buds. There is a high concentration of taste buds in the mouth and these are largely concentrated on the tongue.
There is a belief that dysgeusia is a safeguard against pregnant women eating foods which could potentially harm her baby, but it can still occur even when food isn’t being eaten and when foods are perfectly safe.
Another reason may be that dysgeusia serves as a protective mechanism to ensure a pregnant mother eats sufficient trace elements of calcium, sodium and iron. Or perhaps it is just one of those unexplained mysteries.
Will it go away?
Sour foods that are rich in citric acid are the best aid to erase the taste, but not all sensitive pregnant stomachs can handle the increase in acid. Sucking on vitamin C drops can be helpful in fighting off metal mouth.
When in doubt, rinsing the mouth with orange juice can prevent issues with stomach sensitivity while providing some relief. All these foods increase saliva production, which helps wash the taste away and will break through the metallic taste in your mouth.
Some prenatal vitamins make this condition worse, so you may want to talk to your doctor about changing to another kind. Another tip from pregnant mothers is to brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth. You can also rinse your mouth with a solution of one scoop of baking soda in half a cup of warm water a few times a day to neutralise pH levels in your mouth.