Baby Hiccups During Pregnancy – What’s Normal?

Baby Hiccups During Pregnancy – What's Normal?

Is that a kick, or is it a bit of gas?

Did baby just do a flip, or have I been hit with a wave of nausea?

Is this feeling just baby hiccupping?

Oh no, is she okay? Is she in distress? Does this hurt her?

Pregnancy is a time of joy, excitement, changes and a whole lot of new sensations.

Trying to separate normal pregnancy sensations from possible concerns can be challenging.

Even if you’ve experienced pregnancy before, each pregnancy, and each baby, is unique.

Baby Hiccups During Pregnancy – What’s Normal?

Is it normal for baby to have hiccups during pregnancy?

Like most pregnancy related things, ‘normal’ covers a wide spectrum.

What Do Baby Hiccups Feel Like?

You’ll feel many sensations during pregnancy, and this makes it hard to decipher what each sensation is. At times, it might be difficult to distinguish between fetal movement like kicks, Braxton Hicks contractions, and hiccups.

Fetal movement, like kicking, tends to be sporadic, not patterned.

Changing your position can also help you work out what you’re feeling. If you’re feeling large, jerky movements and you get up and move around, you’ll often find baby will settle.

Occasionally, your position can be uncomfortable for baby. Moving about helps your baby to get comfortable again. Once she finds a better position, the large movements will often settle.

You can read Baby Kicking – 9 Facts You Need To Know to learn more about feeling baby kicks. 

Braxton Hicks contractions tend to feel like a tightening in your abdomen.

Braxton Hicks contractions also tend to change or stop when you change position, or rest if you’ve been active, and when you increase fluids.

If you’re feeling a sensation of slight tightening without pain, that seems patterned, many maternity care providers recommend changing position or resting, and hydrating.

You can read Braxton Hicks Contractions – What Are Braxton Hicks? To learn more about how they feel and when you might expect to feel them.

If you’re feeling a quick, repetitive motion coming from your baby, you’re likely feeling hiccups.

Although everyone feels things slightly differently, for most women baby hiccups feel like a pulsating sensation. If you think about what it feels and sounds like when you have hiccups, it will help you figure out whether the sensation you’re feeling is your baby hiccupping.

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Why Do Babies Have Hiccups In Utero?

Baby hiccups in the uterus are the same as hiccups that happen after birth.

In children and adults, an overly full stomach, irritation to the throat, or a sudden feeling of nervousness or excitement can trigger hiccups.

Several theories exist as to why babies have hiccups in utero. For example, hiccups might:

  • Help in lung maturation
  • Help the diaphragm to mature fully
  • Occur when baby is practising sucking, swallowing and breathing

Various studies have been done to look at why babies have hiccups in the womb. We’re not 100% sure why human beings get hiccups. Their exact purpose isn’t completely understood.

We know, however, hiccups are rarely a cause for concern, and it isn’t something most pregnant mothers need be concerned about. Having hiccups is a normal body reflex, even if we don’t know why it happens.

When Will I Feel My Baby Hiccup?

Feeling your baby move can be very exciting. Often, feeling fetal movement is a welcome reassurance that your little one is developing.

In the early months of pregnancy, fetal movement varies significantly. Many women feel fetal movement for the first time between 16 and 20 weeks.

Women who have been pregnant before might notice fetal movement even earlier, as they know what it feels like. Baby’s positioning, the position of the uterus, placental positioning, the mother’s size and other factors can influence when a mother notices fetal movement.

A baby can start having hiccups as early as nine weeks after conception, or about the eleventh week of pregnancy. However, many women don’t feel their baby’s hiccups until the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy.

Some babies hiccup very often in the womb; others hiccup rarely, if at all. Overall, there’s no normal expectation for exactly when and how often you will feel your baby hiccup. You might not notice hiccups if you are busy but then be woken up at night by your baby’s hiccupping.

Are Frequent Baby Hiccups A Concern?

Hiccupping is a normal reflex. It’s rarely, if ever, a concern. However, it’s also normal to be a bit concerned if it seems like your baby is constantly having hiccups.

Hiccup patterns can be random, and there’s no real ‘average’ or ‘normal’ way to count or experience hiccups.

If you’re experiencing a pregnancy for the first time, changing or frequent sensations can be exciting but also worrying. If you’ve been pregnant before, it’s also normal to worry if things seem different this time.

The good news is nearly all the research says hiccups, even frequent hiccups, are just a normal part of baby developing and maturing. We might not know exactly why they occur, but we needn’t be overly worried about it.

A small study found a possible positive correlation between very frequent hiccups and possible cord compression or potential cord accidents and stillbirth in animals. However, other studies haven’t confirmed this outcome.

What does this mean? It means, generally, hiccups aren’t something to be worried about. However, if you notice a sudden increase in frequent hiccups during the end of the second trimester and the third trimester, take your concerns to your maternity care provider.

Chances are, your baby’s frequent hiccups are absolutely nothing to be worried about. Any time you have concerns about your pregnancy, it’s important to be in contact with your maternity care provider.

The best way to evaluate your baby’s wellbeing is to keep your regular prenatal appointments and follow your maternity care provider’s instructions for kick-counting.

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Maria Silver Pyanov is a mama of four energetic boys and one unique little girl. She is also a doula and childbirth educator. She's an advocate for birth options, and adequate prenatal care and support. She believes in the importance of rebuilding the village so no parent feels unsupported.

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