Why Do Babies Hiccup in the Womb?

Updated on February 12, 2014

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?

Well, as I said 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 some amniotic fluid. The fluid can get into the lungs and the central nervous system, nicely developed at this point, sends the message to the brain that the diaphragm should contract. This would expel substances that she needs to get rid of when she starts work in the real world. In the womb, she gets the hiccups.

She's a work-a-holic.

Have you felt your baby get the hiccups?

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What does my baby's hiccups feel like?

Hiccups can occur in the 1st trimester but generally can't be felt until the 2nd and 3rd trimesters when the baby is bigger. They are small rhythmic movements that occur over an extended period of time, maybe a few minutes. It can happen daily, several times a day.


Cause of hiccups in unborn babies

Hiccups in unborn babies are caused by:

  • Contracting diaphragm caused by inhaling amniotic fluid
  • Developing reflexes and practicing for feeding, eating and spitting up
  • In rare cases, cord compression could cause baby to get less oxygen and so hiccup

Should you be concerned if your baby has the 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 the 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 might have advised 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, in which the cord wraps around the baby's neck and cuts off the flow of oxygen through the cord. The baby will respond to this with prolonged hiccups.

Doctor's Advice on Baby's Hiccups

Hiccup Take-Away

So, we've seen that hiccups indicate normal functioning and development of your baby's neurological system and is common and naturally occurs 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.

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 (for a baby).

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.


Questions & Answers


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      • NathaNater profile image

        NathaNater 3 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Kate 3 years ago

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

      • NathaNater profile image

        NathaNater 3 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Kodi 3 years ago

        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 profile image

        NathaNater 3 years ago

        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!

      • profile image

        Steph 3 years ago

        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!!!