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Bip. Bip. Bip. Bip.
Are those rhythmic little bumps coming from your belly a two-step, or are they hiccups?
Baby hiccups in the womb are actually pretty common and usually totally harmless.
As with other fetal movements, you might start to notice them somewhere around your pregnancy’s halfway point. And telling the difference between hiccups and kicks is often easier than you might expect.
Here’s a look at what fetal hiccups are, why they happen, and the rare instances when you should be concerned. Plus, in case they’re distracting you, we’ll tell you whether there’s anything you can do to make them go away.
The hiccups babies have in the womb are just like the hiccups you sometimes get: sudden, involuntary contractions of the diaphragm (the muscle between your lungs and your stomach). Sometimes they’ll last for just a minute or two, but other times they can go on a little longer.
Fetal hiccups actually feel a lot like your own hiccups. And once you’ve felt your baby have them, it’s pretty easy to tell the difference between a hiccup and a kick.
Hiccups tend to feel like a jerky or pulsing jump. They usually have a pretty regular rhythm, and you’ll feel them in the same part of your belly over and over.
Kicks can be jerky or jumpy too, but they won’t have that regular beat (unless your baby is practicing to be the best drummer ever). And since your baby is moving around in there, you might notice a string of kicks in different parts of your belly instead of in the same exact spot over and over.
In both cases, your belly might noticeably bump or jump along with a hiccup or kick. Kinda cool, right?
Experts don’t fully understand why we hiccup, and the same goes for babies hiccuping in the womb. But some suspect the hiccups could be involved in lung maturation. In other words, they’re a sign your little one’s body is getting ready for life in the outside world.
A tiny human making tiny hiccups might be kinda cute (or kinda distracting, depending on your mood). But are hiccups something you should be concerned about?
Most of the time, baby hiccups are NBD — they’re a normal reflex we all experience sometimes. Noticing an occasional hiccup spell is nothing to be concerned about.
Still, pregnancy can sometimes be nerve-wracking. So if you think it would ease your mind, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t bring it up with your healthcare provider.
In rare cases, very frequent hiccuping (every day or multiple times a day) could be a sign of an umbilical cord compression or prolapse, a rare complication where the blood or oxygen supply slows down or gets cut off from the fetus.
It can happen late in pregnancy or during delivery, but there’s no way to predict your risk or to prevent it.
Umbilical cord issues can cause problems with a baby’s heart rate and blood pressure and could potentially lead to brain damage or stillbirth. If your baby’s hiccups seem to be happening much more often, reach out to your healthcare provider ASAP.
You’ll likely start to notice your baby’s movements sometime in your second trimester. That goes for hiccups as well as things like kicks or jabs. First-time moms tend to notice the sensations around 20 weeks, while women who have been pregnant before may notice them sooner, around 16 weeks.
You might notice hiccups more easily as you get closer to your due date. The bigger your baby gets, the easier it is to see their movements and hiccups from the outside. At some point, your whole belly might jerk or bounce when they hiccup.
But the frequency of hiccuping shouldn’t noticeably increase as you near the end of pregnancy. If it does, you should call your healthcare provider.
Does it seem like your baby’s favorite time to move or hiccup is when you’re trying to concentrate on work or fall asleep? You can’t control when your baby might start hiccuping… and it can sometimes be distracting.
Unfortunately, just as with your own hiccups, there’s no proven way to stop your baby’s hiccups (and you obviously can’t hand them a glass of water to drink upside down).
There’s no harm in changing your position. That might get the baby to move around as well, which could help the hiccups end. No dice? In that case, patience is probably your best bet. Most cases of the hiccups will go away on their own within a few minutes.
Baby hiccups in the womb might feel strange to you, but most of the time, they’re completely normal. You can expect to feel them from time to time starting around the middle of your second trimester.
There’s no proven way to stop baby hiccups, but if they bother you, try to be patient. Your baby should give you a break after a few minutes.
Finally, pay attention to hiccups that seem to suddenly get more frequent, especially toward the end of your pregnancy. These could be a sign of a dangerous complication.