• The Fit Midwife

Hiccups in the Womb...



When you get so used to your baby’s movement pattern it actually becomes worrying when you all of a sudden feel like baby is popping popcorn in your belly. That feeling of baby jumping every couple of seconds.

At first it is funny, when you finally click that your baby, who is inside a fluid filled sac inside your body, has hiccups. Then when it carries on for 5 minutes you start to get worried right? Is the baby ok? Why is it hiccuping so much? What if it isn’t hiccups??

Baby hiccups in the womb will feel quite rhythmical. They are no different to you or I hiccuping. They are, after all, just tiny humans. So you will begin to realise that your baby may have little hiccup episodes. This can start in early pregnancy, as early as around 10 weeks (according to some ultrasounds) but you probably will not feel it until around 25 - 30 weeks.

If you like, you can record the episodes. I am sure there is an app for that. There is an app for every single possible pregnancy symptom. Apparently it is a fun thing to record..... whatever floats your boat is good by me. But personally I think it isn't necessary.

Baby hiccups are normal. So very normal. They are a reassuring sign that your baby is getting ready for life on the outside! But the actual cause it unknown. The research on it is slim to none. There are many solid theories on why babies hiccup that physiologically are very logical.

'Breathing' movements:

Babies do actually practice breathing movements in the womb, this we know. Inhaling and exhaling the amniotic fluid. When this happens their diaphragm (the muscle in the chest NOT the small silicone device you use for birth control) moves as it would do when baby is born. This shows baby is practicing. If they are inhaling and exhaling (so to speak) then they are likely to get hiccups.

Nervous System Development:

Hiccups also show that your baby's nervous system is developing nicely. Hiccups in the womb show the activation of the nerve that controls the diaphragm. They help confirm that the brain and spinal cord are intact and doing their job. In other words, fetal hiccups mean that baby is becoming neurologically developed enough to survive when they decide to make a grand entrance (or are evicted).

Random acts such as thumb or finger sucking or yawning; which we often see on scans, can also cause hiccups! It is a normal involuntary reflex. In adults, newborns and in a fetus.

Can you stop fetal hiccups?? NO! I mean I am sure a tiny human hiccuping in your womb could actually become irritating if it is happening frequently but you cannot stop it. Ever tried stopping your own? Sometimes its bloody impossible! Some people suggest that changing positions or eating or drinking can stimulate a change in baby. Honestly.... I have no idea if that works. Again there is little evidence.

So should you worry? Should you call a Doctor? No. If you notice your baby has hiccups episodes now and then and there is a common pattern then do not worry. If you notice a change in the normal pattern of movements for your baby and excessive hiccuping that does not stop then call your doctor. Whilst there is no set time for what is considered abnormal when it comes to hiccups in the womb, I would call a doctor or midwife if after 30-40 minutes of uninterrupted hiccups and feel their advice.

I am always of the opinion that if something is bothering you, go and chat to a Midwife or a Doctor. Your peace of mind is the most important thing here. I would rather you are checked put and sent home happy than stress out counting every hiccup on an app trying to figure out if it is too many or not!

But for the most part..... hiccuping is a normal physiological thing that feels a bit funny and reminds you baby is growing in all the right ways for coming out to meet you!

Nikki xx


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