Fetus Hiccups

A Mother's Guide To Fetal Hiccups

Are you wondering what exactly fetal hiccups are and what actually causes the occurrence?  Fetal movements are felt much more prominently in the last trimester of pregnancy.  As your fetus grows, it will kick and turn and let you know that he or she is there and most movements are considered normal.

Even though most expectant mothers are aware of and excited about the movements, most are surprised that the baby can have fetal hiccups too.  Just as humans have these occasionally, your growing baby does inside the womb as well.

Fetal Hiccups Explained

Occasional hiccups are normal, especially in newborns so it really should come as no surprise that your fetus experiences them too.  Health experts suggest that movements and hiccups are a natural way to prepare the baby for when breathing is required outside of the womb.  Aside from preparing your baby's lungs to breath in open air, hiccups are said to help develop motor skills for swallowing and sucking.

While the majority of fetal movements are felt and described as kicks and jerks, fetal hiccups are compared to a mild belly spasm.  Studies suggest that during the term of a pregnancy, a baby will hiccup at least once while still in the mother's uterus.  However, in other babies, the occurrence is much more frequent.  Most mothers describe them as feeling like rhythmic movements.


Fetal hiccups are completely normal and quite necessary for the proper growth and development of your baby.  Interestingly, they are only said to occur after the baby's central nervous system has already been developed.  For some mothers, they experience these movements at the end of their first trimester or in the earliest part of their second trimester.  Other pregnant women may not feel them that soon but an advanced Doppler heart tone machine can actually detect them.  Nearly all expectant mothers do feel the hiccups by the end of their second trimester and going into the third.  In some cases, episodes can last longer than half of an hour.

Not an abundance of extensive research has been performed on fetal hiccups yet there are still a few different theories for these phenomenons.  Some health experts believe that amniotic fluid actually enters and exits the fetus' lungs while they breathe.  This causes diaphragm contractions which results in the hiccups.  The fetus is able to breathe amniotic fluid in because of the central nervous system.  Additionally, the hiccups work to prepare the fetus' lungs to function at birth.  The same experts also believe that during the third trimester, the hiccups could be regulating the heart rate.

A different study suggests that the hiccups are caused by a developmental reflex that prepares the fetus to be able to suckle the breast for food after birth.  This reflex is very important because it stops milk from being able to enter into the baby's lungs.


It is important to note that if your fetus hiccups for a lengthy period of time, this needs to be monitored.  The fetus could be deprived of air in the event of cord compression.  When this happens, the hiccups are caused because of the cord being wrapped around the fetus' neck.

For the most part, these hiccups are considered just another blessing to expectant mothers for them to feel closer to their baby.  Rarely do any women complain of any discomfort.  While an occasional episode of the hiccups is normal, always be sure that longer ones are monitored.  If you still have any concerns or if you are feeling discomfort from the hiccups, you should talk to your doctor.  You are always better to be safe where your baby is concerned.