Fetal Hiccups: Everything You Need to Know | Pregnancy Guide

Dec 10 , 2020

Doan Khanh

Fetal Hiccups: Everything You Need to Know | Pregnancy Guide

Pregnancy is not only a time of constant change for you but also for your baby. One of the most noticeable changes in the fetal movement. And, you’ll probably become aware of your baby’s movements by your second trimester. This is when fetal movement, also known as quickening, often occurs for the first time. For some mums, it might take a bit longer depending on factors like weight and placenta position. It often starts as little kicks, a punch or maybe a big hiccups. But, why do babies hiccup in the womb, and what normal? Read on to learn everything you need to know about fetal hiccups.

What Are Fetal Hiccups?

Your baby will have many different milestones even before they’re born. Simply, fetal hiccups are little movements your baby’s diaphragm makes when they begin to practice breathing. As your baby inhales, amniotic fluid enters their lungs, causing their developing diaphragm to contract. And, the result is a tiny case of hiccups in utero.

What Does it Feel Like?

Fetal hiccups are a quick, repetitive motion that you can tell is definitely coming from your baby. At first, you may think it’s a soft kick, but then it’ll happen again and again. Pay close attention and you’ll notice that the rhythm mirrors adult hiccups, which are also caused by diaphragm movements. According to Inova Loudoun Hospital in Virginia, the beginning of the third trimester is when most women begin to feel fetal hiccups. However, you can see them on a sonogram as early as the first trimester, when the baby’s diaphragm develops.

Moving around is the best way to determine if your baby has hiccups or it is just kicking. Also, you may feel these movements in different parts of your belly. If you’re sitting still and feel a pulsing or rhythmic twitching coming from one area of your belly, these might be baby’s hiccups. After a while, you get used to that familiar twitch.

Why Do Babies Get Hiccups in the Womb?

Unlike kids and adults, fetal hiccups are simply a side effect of your baby “trying out” all the new things they can do. So, it’s important to note that fetal hiccups are considered a good sign because it is related to your baby’s growth. So, here are some developments happening when babies start to hiccup in utero:
Baby’s respiratory system: Baby’s ability to inhale and exhale amniotic fluid. Therefore, fetal hiccups are a good sign that their diaphragm is developing nicely. This process begins around week 10, though you probably won’t be able to feel it for a few more months.

Baby’s nervous system: According to research, fetal hiccups indicate the activation of the nerve that controls the diaphragm. They help confirm that your baby’s brain and spinal cord are doing their job perfectly. In other words, fetal hiccups mean that your baby is becoming neurologically developed enough to survive outside the womb. Which is definitely good news!

Baby’s reflexes: Besides breathing, your baby is also practicing thumb-sucking and yawning and all those adorable things a baby will do when they’re born. And, all of these activities can result in fetal hiccups too.

Fetal Hiccups: How Often Is Normal?

Because every pregnancy is unique, there’s no way to exactly know how frequently fetal hiccups should or should not occur. They can occur randomly, in some cases, maybe several times a day. Still, babies don’t seem to hiccup very much. And, that’s fine too, as long as you feel other movements like kicking in your belly. On top of that, if you’re doing a daily kick count recording, then you should count each hiccup as a movement as well. After all, hiccups in the womb are one of the most common fetal movements.

How to Stop Fetal Hiccups

While hiccups in utero are normal, all that popping can be quite distracting, especially if you’re dealing with other problems. However, unlike your own hiccups, there isn’t an effective way to stop your baby’s hiccups in the womb. We can only suggest changing positions, walking around, and drinking water. These activities might work since any new stimulus will encourage your baby to shift gears. So, maybe the best way to deal with fetal hiccups simply is to actually embrace them! It's just one of many things that are a part of pregnancy. Eventually, it gets to a point where you won’t notice them much. Although fetal hiccups are perfectly normal and healthy for babies, any concerns you have about your baby’s movements should be addressed and monitored immediately.

The Bottom Line

Note that after week 32, it’s less common to experience fetal hiccups every day. So, you may want to call your doctor if your baby continues to hiccup daily after this point. For example, if you experience a sudden change in your baby’s hiccups after 28 weeks or if they’re stronger or last longer than usual, your doctor can examine and find out if there’s an issue. And, they can also help ease your worries if everything’s fine.

In most cases, fetal hiccups are nothing but normal reflexes. Think it like your baby just has a lot to practice for their debut on the delivery day! So, don’t worry too much. And, remember if fetal hiccups give you a reason for concern, seek advice from professionals. Soon, you’ll get to see your little one hiccup outside instead of inside your tummy. Just hang in there, Mom! You are doing great. Also, feel free to share your story or ask us any questions about pregnancy in the comments.