What Causes Hiccups in Unborn Babies?






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Definitely one of the weirdest things that a pregnant woman will experience is her baby having hiccups in the womb. Some babies hiccup more than others, and some women are freaked out by it.


So, what exactly causes hiccups in the womb, and are they a cause for concern? Read on to find out more.

 1. What Are Fetal Hiccups?

Fetal hiccups are much like adult hiccups. They are involuntary actions in the diaphragm, and sometimes they start before the fetus even begins to move.
Girl listening to mother's pregnant belly

Some women report feeling their baby hiccup in the womb as early as nine weeks gestation. The feeling can be very strange for a pregnant woman, as she will notice strange spasms in her stomach that are unlike any other pregnancy sensation.


Some babies get fetal hiccups every day, and some even get them multiple times per day. Some women might only experience fetal hiccups a few times during their pregnancies, however.

2. What Causes Fetal Hiccups?

In babies whose respiratory systems are fully developed, fetal hiccups can be caused by a contracting diaphragm. This can actually help prepare the baby’s lungs for function after birth, and in the third trimester it can even help to regulate baby’s heart rate.


Sometimes, a mature fetus will hiccup when it is developing the reflex that will allow him or her to nurse after birth. This is also completely harmless and nothing to be concerned about. The majority of the time, fetal hiccups are completely normal and harmless, and are a funny little quirk of most pregnancies.

3. Can Fetal Hiccups Be Dangerous?

Very rarely, fetal hiccups can be dangerous. For example, in some rare cases, fetal hiccups can be a sign that the cord is becoming compressed around the baby and the baby isn’t getting enough air.

Nuchal cord complication

This is very rare, however. If a woman notices a sudden increase in the urgency, frequency, or strength of her baby’s hiccups, she should have her doctor or local emergency room check right away for cord compression.

Also be aware that very rarely, women can mistake fetal seizures, which can be harmful, for fetal hiccups, which are usually harmless. Fetal seizures will feel more like a vibration, and can be very violent and even rhythmic.


They will usually feel much stronger than a regular fetal hiccup as well. If you happen to notice any of these symptoms it is important to seek immediate medical care to find out for sure if there is a problem with your baby.

What Causes Hiccups in Unborn Babies?, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

Valerie Wisniewski, RN

Ms. Wisniewski has over 15 years experience as a labor and delivery nurse, having also worked previously as a nurse midwife in the Philippines and India. She enjoys empowering women and providing family centered care to women from all cultural and educational backgrounds.