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Study: Fertile women have a heightened sense of smell

A woman's mood and appetite are clearly tied to her menstrual cycle, but other, more subtle changes in thinking and behavior also occur. In particular, her sense of smell sharpens as fertility peaks in the latter half of her cycle.

A study published in March in Hormones and Behavior compared the smell sensitivity of 16 women taking oral contraceptives and 17 naturally cycling women during two different phases of the menstrual cycle—around the time of ovulation and during the luteal phase, immediately after ovulation. Participants sniffed odors of lemon, peppermint, rose, musk and the male pheromones androstenone and androsterone. Naturally cycling women near ovulation were more sensitive to musk and the pheromones than the women on contraceptives. The effect may not be limited to male scents: a study in March in Physiology and Behavior suggests that women have a sharpened sense of smell in general during their luteal phase, as measured by their ability to detect the subtle odor of the alcohol n-butanol.

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