Craving the Smell of Sharpies While Pregnant (Is It Okay To Sniff?)

Food cravings are a common occurrence during pregnancy, but you may also experience cravings for smells as well. What do you do if your olfactory cravings are for something potentially harmful, such as the distinct scent of a Sharpie marker?

Increased estrogen levels may lead to a more sensitive sense of smell that can mean smells you previously loved are repulsive and other smells may suddenly be appealing. You should not give in to cravings for inhalants like Sharpies or other permanent markers as the fumes can pose a significant health risk for both mother and baby.

Keep reading for more information about why it is dangerous to inhale Sharpies while pregnant and whether or not craving the smell of permanent markers could be a sign of pica.

Is it safe to inhale Sharpie fumes while pregnant?

Inhaling any substance, especially while pregnant is ill-advised and could cause significant medical issues.

Fumes from Sharpies and other permanent markers contain harmful toxins and can give the effect of a high and become addictive. If inhalants are abused during pregnancy the probable risks could range from mild (headaches, dizziness) to severe (miscarriage, birth defects, sudden sniffing death).

According to Canada’s Center for Addiction and Mental Health, young adults and children are the ones with a higher rate of inhalant abuse. Nevertheless, the risk to adults and pregnant women is still present.

Symptoms of permanent marker fume inhalation include:

  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sudden Sniffing Death

Birth defects that may be caused by a pregnant mother abusing inhalants include:

  • Low birth weight
  • Head/face disfiguration (comparable to children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome)
  • Delayed physical and mental development

What kind of chemicals are in Sharpie fumes?

Sharpie is actually the name brand for permanent marks.

Many people assume that since it is so readily available and oftentimes included on the back-to-school supply list that they are harmless. So, what is it about permanent markers that can be harmful?

Permanent markers are composed of a colorant, solvent, and polymer. The chemicals found in Sharpies include xylene, urethane, and toluene. Both xylene and toluene are solvents that are often found in paint thinners. Urethane resin is the polymer that provides the adhesion for the ink. 

Inhalation of these volatile solvents poses a major health risk.

Is it common to want to smell or sniff Sharpies during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, women may begin to obsess over smells and tastes which could be categorized as part of their cravings. It is common for women to experience a yearning for food, drinks, and other substances. But where do Sharpies fall in this?

Based on web search results, forum discussions, and professional documentation, Sharpies are not a common craving while pregnancy.

The most discussed (and documented) cravings tend to be for sweets, certain spices, and food combinations. However, there is also the possibility that some cravings are not discussed publically because of the potential stigma involving the craving.

For pregnant women inquiring about sniffing Sharpies, there are many forums online that discuss the matter. 

If you are experiencing potentially hazardous cravings, speak to your doctor a medical professional.

Is a Sharpie craving considered a pica craving?

Pica is a craving to eat non-food substances and is somewhat common during pregnancy. Oftentimes it is linked to an iron or mineral deficiency.

Craving the smell of Sharpies is not considered a pica craving because it does not involve a desire to consume the item. The olfactory cravings for non-food items such as chemicals, solvents, and other materials is desiderosmia.

Desiderosmia doesn’t always occur together with pica or an iron deficiency. More studies are needed to determine its other causes.

Predictably, neither the American Pregnancy Association nor Healthline consider the scent of Sharpie/permanent marker a pica craving.

Why do women have heightened senses of smell while pregnant?

During pregnancy, you may find that you can no longer stand the smell of your favorite perfume or raw meat. The cause behind the increased sense of smell experienced by pregnant women is estrogen. 

Estrogen is a hormone whose levels typically continue to rise as the pregnancy progresses and plays a role in the development of the fetus.  

Studies are scarce as to how or the method in which estrogen makes you sensitive to smell. However, the fact still remains that pregnant women do indeed become sensitive to smell. 

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