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Why Do Babies Hiccup in the Womb?

Nathan has two daughters. When he and his wife were trying to have a baby, they did considerable research on issues concerning pregnancy.

You might feel your baby hiccup. What's causing it? Is there cause for concern?

You might feel your baby hiccup. What's causing it? Is there cause for concern?

Babies Hiccup in the Womb

Your baby is going through a lot of training in the womb. She's learning to use her lungs and her heart's getting stronger. She's preparing for life on the outside. Her central nervous system is becoming functional and putting everything in place.

I'm pretty sure she's going to be a warrior by the time she's born, she's been through so much training.

Part of the training is getting the hiccups. You might be concerned when you first feel them. The doctor told you to monitor the movement you feel from the baby, just to make sure everything's fine and dandy. Is there cause for concern?

What's Causing the Baby's Hiccups?

The baby's central nervous system is developing in the womb. The brain is telling the body to do certain things for practice after "graduation." The baby practices breathing even though all the oxygen she needs is delivered to her through the umbilical cord. However, while practicing her breathing, she might inhale a bit of amniotic fluid. The fluid can get into the lungs. The central nervous system—nicely developed at this point—sends the message to the brain that the diaphragm should contract to expel any substance she needs to get rid of. In the womb, she gets the hiccups.

Do You Need to Worry About Hiccups in Utero?

No, you don't need to worry. Hiccups pre-birth are about as worrisome as hiccups post-delivery. In other words, hiccups are annoying, but they're nothing to worry about.

What Do My Baby's Hiccups Feel Like?

  • These will feel like small rhythmic movements that occur over an extended period of time.
  • It can happen daily or several times a day.
  • Hiccups can occur as early as the 1st trimester but generally can't be felt until the 2nd and 3rd trimesters when the baby is bigger.

Causes of Hiccups in Unborn Babies

Hiccups in unborn babies are caused. . .

  • when the contracting diaphragm causes a tiny bit of inhaled amniotic fluid to enter the lungs,
  • as your baby practices developing reflexes for feeding, eating, and spitting up, and
  • in very rare cases, when the umbilical cord is compressed, it could cause the baby to hiccup.

Should You Be Concerned If Your Unborn Baby Has Hiccups?

A baby in the womb getting the hiccups is perfectly normal. In fact, no movement at all would be more cause for concern. Hiccups from the baby means her central nervous system is well-developed and sending the right messages to her brain.

Hiccuping in the womb is also very common. It is not unusual for it to happen daily and several times a day.

However, your doctor may advise you to monitor your baby's movement, just to be safe. If the hiccuping occurs over a very long period of time, you might want to visit your doctor and have an ultrasound done to see what's happening. In very rare cases, it could be a sign that there is cord compression, where the cord wraps around the baby's neck and cuts off the flow of oxygen. The baby will respond to this with prolonged hiccups.

Doctor's Advice on Baby's Hiccups

Hiccup Take-Away

So hiccups indicate normal functioning and development of your baby's neurological system. Hiccups are common and may naturally occur throughout pregnancy. The hiccups actually indicate that the baby is doing well, practicing what he or she needs to be doing when born into the world that is outside of the womb.

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While in rare cases hiccups could be caused by cord compression, this is generally not the case. If hiccups continue for a very long time, it would be wise to consult the doctor and have an ultrasound done. However, it is normal for a baby to even hiccup daily, many times a day. You could start feeling this by the second or third trimester when the baby is starting to get big.

The take-away is that babies hiccuping in the womb is normal and good and shows that they are developing what they need to have for life after they are born. I suppose it's a reason for celebration!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


NathaNater (author) on March 18, 2015:

That's wonderful, Kate. Congratulations, very happy for you!

Kate on March 18, 2015:

My baby hiccups a lot as well, can't wait to meet my bundle of joy! 10 more weeks to go :)

NathaNater (author) on September 10, 2014:

No problem, I'm glad it helped, Kodi.

Kodi on September 10, 2014:

I am 38 weeks pregnant. I really felt sad about regular rhythmic movement of the baby. But I am little relaxed after reading this.

Thank u.

NathaNater (author) on July 22, 2014:

Congratulations, Steph, and I'm glad this article is reassuring. Sounds like she is perfectly healthy and that is wonderful that you will get to see her in a little more than a month!

Steph on July 22, 2014:

My little girl hiccups a lot. This article is reassuring. She is due September 3rd 2014 cannot wait to meet her 6 weeks to go!!!

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