Baby Hiccups in the Womb – Is it Normal?

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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. Along with jabs and kicks, you may also feel small, repeated spasms in your womb. You can mistake them for kicks but they are actually 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 a baby hiccups in the womb and how can you differentiate between his hiccups and kicks!

What Causes Foetal Hiccups?

Doctors don’t exactly know the reasons for foetal hiccups. Not all babies have hiccups in the womb. It is believed that foetal hiccups are related to the developing lungs of the baby, but that’s not proven yet. 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 that his progress is on track. 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

Foetal hiccups are similar to the hiccups experienced by children and adults. In a foetus, it 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 amniotic 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. The hiccups in this instance 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.

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 trimester onwards. But nothing can be said for sure, all moms feel foetal movements and baby hiccups at a different time.

Some babies get hiccups often while others may not experience them at all. Health professionals are of the opinion that 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’s is a sign that your baby is developing just fine. However, if you notice your baby’s hiccups after 32 weeks of your pregnancy, you should consult a doctor as it could be a sign of some problem.

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

A pregnant woman having nutritious breakfast

How to Stop Foetal Hiccups in the Womb

In a few weeks’ time, you will learn to identify your baby hiccups. 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. There are 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 lack of fluids in the body.
  • 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.

When Should You Be Concerned?

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

During pregnancy, it is important that you pay close attention to your baby’s movements to understand whether they are kicks, hiccups, or something else. If you have a fair idea of your baby’s movements, you will be less anxious. You should also consult with your doctor regularly to make sure that your pregnancy is progressing just fine. Take good care of yourselves during the nine months, and your baby will be healthy and happy!

References and Resources: MedicalNewsToday

Also Read: Baby Kicking During Pregnancy

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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.