Baby Hiccups In The Womb: Causes and What to Expect?

Baby Hiccups In The Womb: Causes and What to Expect?

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Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
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A pregnant woman may notice many changes in her body as her baby develops in the womb. If you are pregnant, you will feel different movements as your baby grows up. And these movements will get stronger as your pregnancy progresses. You may also feel small, repeated spasms, jabs, and kicks in your womb. You can mistake them for kicks, but they are foetal hiccups. Experiencing short and rhythmic movements (or foetus hiccups) in the womb is common during pregnancy, but identifying them can be difficult. So, find out why your baby hiccups in womb and how you can differentiate between his hiccups and kicks!

Video: Baby Hiccups in the Womb – Is It Normal?

What Are Fetal Hiccups?

Fetal hiccups are common during pregnancy and are characterised by rhythmic, involuntary movements of the diaphragm in the fetus. These movements result in the fetus’s repetitive jerking or twitching motion, which the mother may feel as a slight rhythmic tapping or pulsing sensation in the abdomen. Fetal hiccups are believed to be a normal and healthy part of fetal development and are generally not a cause for concern. They typically occur in the later stages of pregnancy, often in the third trimester, and may occur several times daily. The exact cause of fetal hiccups is not well understood, but they are thought to result from the immature development of the fetal nervous system.

While fetal hiccups are generally considered normal and harmless, there are some instances where they may be a sign of a more serious problem. For example, if the hiccups occur frequently or are accompanied by other unusual symptoms such as decreased fetal movement or an irregular heartbeat, it may be a sign of fetal distress and require medical attention.

What Does It Feel Like?

Baby hiccups in womb feel like a delightful sensation that can leave you both amused and awed. It’s like a gentle drumbeat or rhythmic tapping, like your baby is practising their little dance routine there. Some women describe it as a “popcorn popping” sensation or a “butterfly fluttering” feeling. It’s a sweet reminder that your little one is growing and developing in the safety of your womb. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!

Can Your Baby Hiccup in the Womb?

Yes, it is normal for a baby to have a hiccup in the womb. Fetus hiccups are common during pregnancy and sign of healthy fetal development. As the baby’s nervous system matures, it can send signals to the diaphragm, causing it to contract and resulting in those familiar rhythmic jerks that we know as hiccups. While fetal hiccups are generally harmless and a normal part of fetal development, it is important to keep track of your baby’s movements and contact your healthcare provider if you notice any sudden or prolonged changes in fetal activity.

What Causes Foetal Hiccups?

Doctors don’t exactly know the reasons why do babies get hiccups in the womb. Not all babies have hiccups in the womb. It is believed that foetal hiccups are related to the baby’s developing lungs, but that’s not proven yet. Instead, a baby trying to adjust to all new things in the womb may have hiccups. When a baby has hiccups in the womb, it is a sign that he is meeting his developmental milestones on time and progressing. While pregnant, it may worry you if you feel your baby’s hiccups in your womb, but doctors have identified the following reasons as to why a baby may hiccup while he in the uterus.

1. Contracting Diaphragm

Fetal hiccups are similar to the hiccups experienced by children and adults. A foetus is caused by the sudden onset of intense contractions or spasms of the diaphragm – the muscle that acts as the partition between the lungs and the abdomen. Hiccups in the uterus are a reaction to the baby breathing amniotic fluid within the sac. After the development of the central nervous system, the amniotic acid flows in and out of the baby’s lungs, making the diaphragm contract spontaneously.

2. Compressed Umbilical Cord

An alarming and extremely serious medical condition in which a foetus is likely to get hiccups is when the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck or is compressed. This usually occurs in the second and third trimester of the pregnancy.

During pregnancy, you might be able to understand the different patterns of hiccups. If you notice irregularity or changes in the duration of hiccups, you should consult your doctor. In this instance, the hiccups usually occur due to limited or no air supply to your baby. When you sense there is a slight to a drastic change in the hiccups or even the kicking in the womb; then you must seek medical help immediately.

3. Foetal Seizures

In rare cases, foetal hiccups may be a sign of fetal seizures. Fetal seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain and can cause various symptoms, including hiccups. Other symptoms of fetal seizures may include sudden movements, stiffening of the limbs, and changes in heart rate.

4. Diaphragmatic Hernia

Another rare condition that can cause fetal hiccups is a diaphragmatic hernia. This occurs when a hole in the diaphragm muscle separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. As a result, the organs in the abdomen can move into the chest cavity, which can compress the lungs and cause hiccups. Diaphragmatic hernias can be detected on prenatal ultrasounds and may require surgical intervention after birth.

A pregnant woman admiring her belly

Are Foetal Hiccups Normal?

Babies may have hiccups in the womb regularly and for quite a long period of time. However, you may only start to experience them from the second and third trimesters onwards. But nothing can be said for sure; all moms feel foetal movements and baby hiccups at different times.

Some babies get hiccups often, while others may not experience them at all. Health professionals think babies start having hiccups from the first trimester of pregnancy itself, but because of their small size, pregnant women may not notice these movements. If you experience movements or your baby’s hiccups in the womb, it is a sign that your baby is developing just fine. However, if you notice your baby’s hiccups after 32 weeks of pregnancy, you should consult a doctor as it could be a sign of some problems.

When Can You Expect Foetal Hiccups?

Your baby may have hiccups in the womb right from the first trimester of pregnancy itself, but you may not notice them because your baby will be in the initial stages of your pregnancy, i.e., when your baby is too small. However, they may become apparent in the second and third trimester. 

How to Differentiate Between Hiccups and Kicks?

Initially, you might mistake your baby’s hiccups for kicking in the womb. But you can differentiate between hiccups and kicks once you study the movement. The best way to figure out whether your baby is having hiccups or is kicking in your womb is by moving around. Occasionally, your baby might move if he feels uncomfortable in certain positions in the womb.

You can feel your baby’s movements in different parts of your belly, which might stop if you reposition yourself. If you sit still and feel a pulsating or rhythmic jerk coming from one part of your belly, it might just be your baby’s hiccups. It can take a while to get accustomed to these movements, but at least you can quickly identify them.

A pregnant woman having nutritious breakfast

Are Fetal Hiccups a Sign of Labour, and How Long Do They Usually Last?

Fetal hiccups are common during pregnancy, but many expectant mothers wonder if they are a sign of labour. The short answer is that fetal hiccups do not indicate impending labour. However, they are a normal and healthy part of fetal development. Fetal hiccups are caused by the same reflex that causes hiccups in adults. This reflex involves the diaphragm muscle contracting suddenly, causing a quick air intake. In fetuses, hiccups are thought to play a role in developing the respiratory system.

While fetal hiccups are not a sign of labour, they can indicate that your baby is healthy and developing properly. Some expectant mothers find fetal hiccups reassuring, as they can remind them that their baby is active and growing. As for how long fetal hiccups last, they can vary in duration. Some hiccups may only last a few minutes, while others can last up to an hour. It is important to note that fetal hiccups should not cause any discomfort or pain for the mother. It is always best to consult your doctor if you experience discomfort or have concerns about fetal hiccups.

How to Stop Foetal Hiccups in the Womb?

You will learn to identify your baby’s hiccups in a few weeks. Although foetal hiccups are not painful, they can be distracting. The episodes of foetal hiccups should not last more than 15 minutes, but if they do, it can make you very uncomfortable. Your baby’s hiccups can make it difficult for you to sit back and relax. A few things can try to ease foetal hiccups, but there is no proven way to prevent the baby from hiccuping in the womb. Doctors usually suggest the following things:

  • While sleeping, lie on the left side of your body.
  • Eat nutritious food; include protein-rich food in your diet, as it can help relax your baby and reduce hiccups in the womb.
  • Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. Sometimes, a baby may have hiccups because of a lack of bodily fluids.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Counting the number of kicks and its duration in the late stage of pregnancy can help you keep track of your baby’s movements and his progress.
  • Sometimes, changing positions can help stop fetal hiccups. This is because different positions can help shift the baby’s position, which can sometimes stop the hiccups. For example, if you are sitting or lying down, try standing up and walking around for a few minutes. If you are standing, try sitting down and resting for a bit. Experiment with different positions to see what works best for you and your baby
  • Sometimes, gently massaging or moving your belly can help stop fetal hiccups. This is because the movement can help stimulate the baby’s diaphragm and interrupt the hiccup reflex.

When Should You Be Concerned?

If you notice a sudden increase in foetal hiccups, followed by a rise in the baby’s movement, you should consult your doctor. Your doctor will likely suggest an ultrasound to understand your baby’s health better. The earlier you catch the signs, the better.


1. Does Fetal Seizure Feel Like Hiccups?

No, fetal seizures do not feel like hiccups. While fetal hiccups are a normal part of fetal development and are typically harmless, fetal seizures are a serious medical condition that requires prompt medical attention. Fetal seizures may be accompanied by sudden movements, stiffening of the limbs, changes in heart rate, and other symptoms.

2. Do Hiccups Indicate the Position of Your Baby?

No, fetal hiccups do not necessarily indicate the position of your baby. Fetal hiccups are a normal and healthy part of fetal development and can occur regardless of your baby’s position. They can help determine if the hiccups are related to your baby’s position or if there may be another underlying issue.

During pregnancy, you must pay close attention to your baby’s movements to understand whether they are kicks, hiccups, or something else. You will be less anxious if you have a fair idea of your baby’s movements. You should also consult your doctor regularly to ensure your pregnancy progresses fine. Take good care of yourselves during the nine months, and your baby will be healthy and happy!


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4. Thompson. J, Wilson. J, Bradford. BF; A better understanding of the association between maternal perception of foetal movements and late stillbirth—findings from an individual participant data meta-analysis; BMC;; November 2021

5. Jung. E, Lee. BY, Huh. CY;  Prenatal Diagnosis of Fetal Seizure: A Case Report; PubMed Central;; October 2008

6. Hosker. S, What are Fetal Hiccups?; project alive and kicking;; August 2015

Also Read:

Different Positions of Baby in the Womb
Signs of a Healthy and Unhealthy Infant in the Womb
How to Teach Baby in the Womb & What do they Learn

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Aarohi Achwal holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a master’s degree in English Literature. While working as an intern for an English daily, she realised that she likes writing above anything else. The idea of being heard without having to speak appeals to her. She likes to write research-based articles that are informative and relevant. She has written articles on pregnancy, parenting, and relationships. And she would like to continue creating content on health and lifestyle.