Fetal Hiccups

Fetal hiccups may be a cause of worry for expectant mothers. Go through this article for a brief overview about the condition.
HerHaleness Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Fetal movements are more prominently felt during the later stages of pregnancy. The growing fetus may turn or kick and such movements are considered normal. Most of the expectant mothers are aware of such fetal movements and feel them too. However, fetal hiccups sounds strange for many of these women and they are surprised to know that even a fetus can have hiccups. While some women feel it, in some cases, the condition may not even be noticeable.
What are Fetal Hiccups
It is a known fact that occasional hiccups are normal and this applies to newborns too. Even a fetus inside the womb can have hiccups, which is referred to as fetal hiccups. According to health experts, it is normal for fetuses to hiccup and these movements are believed to gear them up for breathing outside the womb. Apart from that, hiccups are also said to develop the baby's motor skills of sucking and swallowing. It is also believed that such hiccups are related to the development of the nervous system of the fetus.
Though there is no consensus about the duration of these hiccups, some studies suggest that it can last for an average of eight minutes. The number of hiccups per minute may range between one to six. Otherwise too, it will be better to consult your doctor beforehand and gain a basic understanding about normal and abnormal fetal hiccups.
How do Fetal Hiccups Feel
While most of the fetal movements are felt as jerks and kicks, hiccups are often felt by the expectant mother like a mild belly spasm. It is said that almost all babies hiccup inside the uterus, at least once during the course of pregnancy. In some babies, hiccups are found to be more frequent. Such frequent hiccups can be felt like rhythmic movements. Unlike jerks and kicks that are usually felt on some specific part of the belly, these hiccups are felt throughout the belly.
What Causes Fetal Hiccups
As mentioned above, these hiccups are normal and are necessary for the growth of the baby. Studies show that hiccups are found to occur, only after the fetus develops the central nervous system. Such hiccups may start during the latter part of the first trimester or the early stages of the second trimester. Even though the expectant mother may not feel these movements, it can be detected by a Doppler heart tone machine. These hiccups may be felt by the expectant mother during the latter part of the second trimester.
Even though, very little research has been done regarding fetal hiccups, there are various theories that suggest the causes for this phenomenon. According to health experts, amniotic fluid enters and exits the lungs of the fetus, causing contractions of the diaphragm, resulting in hiccups. It is the central nervous system that enables the fetus to breathe in amniotic fluid. These hiccups cause contractions of the diaphragm, which will gradually get strengthened. This prepares the lungs of the fetus to perform well after birth. So, once the lungs get strengthened, these hiccups may not be experienced. It is also said that these hiccups are helpful in regulating the heart rate of the fetus. Another theory is that fetal hiccups are due to the development of the reflex that allows the baby to suckle the breast after birth. This reflex is also important for the baby, as it prevents milk from entering the lungs. It is said that abnormally lengthy hiccups have to be monitored, because there are chances of cord compression, which deprives the fetus of air. While these hiccups are sometimes associated with umbilical cord compression, this concept is contradicted by some health experts. However, it is advisable to consult the doctor, in case of longer hiccups.
In most cases, fetal hiccups are not found to cause any discomfort to the expectant mother or the baby. While occasional hiccups are normal, more frequent and longer ones have to be monitored and in such cases, immediate medical attention is recommended. If you're wondering about how to stop fetal hiccups, then you need to know that there isn't much that you can do about them. In short, you don't have to worry, if you feel such hiccups, but it will be better to inform your doctor just to be on the safer side.