During pregnancy, an influx of hormones is responsible for a number of changes. This can also bring about unwanted symptoms, especially during the first trimester.

While nausea and fatigue are among the most common pregnancy symptoms, some women also experience changes in taste. This is most commonly described as a “metallic” taste. If you feel like you have old coins in your mouth, sensory changes from pregnancy may be to blame.

Sensory Changes and Pregnancy

When you’re pregnant, estrogen and progesterone levels increase to help your body maintain your growing baby. While hormones are certainly necessary, they also contribute to symptomatic changes in the body. This is especially true during the first trimester as your body is adjusting to pregnancy.

For some women, pregnancy brings about changes in appetite and food preferences. You might have a strong craving for chocolate, pickles, or chips that you didn’t have before. Or perhaps some of the foods you used to love taste awful during pregnancy. In the worst cases, some foods can bring about feelings of morning sickness.

Sensory changes from pregnancy can also leave unusual tastes in your mouth. The most common of these is the notorious metallic taste.

What’s Behind the Metallic Taste?

Morning sickness is a common concern during the first trimester. You might also experience other sensory changes during this time, including smell and taste. Hormonal changes are thought to cause a condition called dysgeusia in some pregnant women.

Dysgeusia refers to changes in taste. Specifically, it can cause your mouth to taste:

  • metallic
  • salty
  • burnt
  • rancid
  • foul

In pregnancy, the metallic taste is reported the most. There are many medical explanations for dysgeusia other than pregnancy. These may include:

  • taking vitamins or supplements
  • over-the-counter and prescription medications
  • colds or infections
  • diabetes
  • gingivitis
  • kidney or liver disease
  • cancer or cancer treatments

If you don’t have any of the above medical concerns, then dysgeusia is most likely considered benign. This is likely the case if you have a lot of other symptoms besides the taste of metal.

Dysgeusia itself doesn’t directly affect your changes in food cravings or aversions. But it can make some foods taste bitter. This is the case with foods that leave aftertastes, like those made with artificial sweeteners. Mineral water can also increase the taste of metal in your mouth.

Getting Rid of the Taste

Medically speaking, there’s no treatment that can get rid of the metallic taste you experience in pregnancy. Still, there are steps you can take to minimize the effects of dysgeusia. Anesthesiologist Mark Moore recommends the following dietary changes:

  • snack on saltine crackers to dull any metal tastes
  • take mints or chew sugarless gum
  • eat spicy foods to numb out weird tastes
  • try colder fluids like ice chips and popsicles
  • make it a point to avoid new food aversions (these can sometimes make dysguesia worse)

Oral hygiene can also go a long way in terms of keeping bad tastes at bay (and keeping your gums and teeth healthy). In addition to brushing and flossing your teeth, you can gently brush your tongue to help get rid of any lingering metal tastes. A gentle mouthwash can also help.

The Takeaway

While dysgeusia can be a sign of an underlying health problem in some people, it’s not likely a concern when caused by pregnancy. The metallic taste many pregnant women experience is not harmful, and it doesn’t usually persist beyond the first trimester. Like many other pregnancy symptoms, dysgeusia will eventually go away on its own.

If you can’t stand the metallic taste, discuss dietary changes and other remedies with your doctor. This is especially important if the taste is so bad that you’re having trouble eating.