Are Bitter Taste Buds a Sign of Pregnancy?

By April Sanders
Young woman taking a bite of her salad.

Nausea, fatigue and backaches are well-known signs of early pregnancy, but the increased amount of hormones flowing through the body can trigger other symptoms as well. A lesser-known but common sign of pregnancy is an altered sense of taste, called dysguesia. The condition presents as a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth that can linger even when you are not eating.

Symptoms of Dysguesia

Dysguesia is not the same thing as food cravings, which can also occur during pregnancy. Food cravings are a desire for specific foods or tastes. Dyguesia can occur randomly -- leaving a pregnant woman with a taste in her mouth as if she just licked a metal pole -- or it might occur when eating certain foods, ruining the taste of a good meal. It also tends to change over the course of the pregnancy, often diminishing as the baby grows.

Causes of Dysguesia

Scientists aren't sure exactly what causes dysguesia. Pregnancy hormones -- in particular, estrogen -- are often blamed for the bitter taste buds, according to Parenting.com. Because a woman's sense of smell changes during pregnancy, this can affect how foods taste. In addition, the water retention that occurs with pregnancy affects all of the cells in your body, including your taste buds. This is called edema, and it can affect your sense of taste from the beginning of your pregnancy. Some believe a pregnant woman's taste changes as a way to direct her to eat certain foods the baby needs, or as a way to avoid eating foods that could be harmful to the baby. Some also believe that dysguesia might be a way to direct a woman to eat foods containing certain minerals, but the science on that isn't clear.

Dealing with Dysguesia

Changes in your diet and eating habits can help lessen the bitter taste. For example, chewing sugarless gum after you eat a meal may help. Brushing your teeth after eating is also a good idea, particularly if you use a baking soda-based toothpaste or one that has a minty flavor. Pay particular attention to brushing your tongue. Sour foods seem to reduce the bitter taste, so load up on citrus fruits or foods soaked in vinegar such as pickles and vinegar potato chips. Salt can also help, but use salt in moderation when pregnant. Drinking lots of water throughout the day is not only good for your pregnancy, but it can also help reduce dysguesia. Add fresh lemon or lime to help reduce the bitterness even more, states the Huggies website.

Waiting Out Dysguesia

If all else fails, you might simply be able to wait it out. Dysguesia usually is at its worst in early pregnancy. In fact, it can be exacerbated by the nausea and vomiting that also often accompanies early pregnancy. In most cases, dysguesia becomes less severe as the pregnancy progresses and may disappear altogether by the second or third trimester, according to the Parenting website. Even if you decide to wait it out, see your doctor. It's important to discuss all pregnancy symptoms with your doctor and follow your doctor's advice.