Hiccups are an annoyance we must all deal with occasionally. But most pregnant people get a unique hiccup experience — fetal hiccups. Unlike sporadic kicks, fetal hiccups are usually a pulsating or rhythmic feeling.
Dr. Aliabdi talked more about fetal hiccups in a recent Verywell Family article.
What Do Fetal Hiccups Feel Like?
During pregnancy, people experience a variety of rolls, kicks, jabs, and pulsating movements as their baby develops and practices for life outside the womb. One such movement that you may experience includes fetal hiccups—a rhythmic motion that can seem a little strange initially, especially if this is your first baby.
“Fetal development is an astonishing nine-month journey,” explains Thais Aliabadi, MD, an OB/GYN and co-founder of Trimly. “The fetus meets a new developmental milestone every few weeks. In just 16 to 24 weeks, the pregnant person may experience fetal movements for the very first time. As you progress further in your pregnancy, the ‘little baby kicks’ become a daily norm. At times, you might feel a different type of movement that feels more rhythmic or pulsating. This can be known as fetal hiccups.”
Fetal hiccups are one of those things that can be hard to imagine until you experience it. Here we remove some of the mystery surrounding fetal hiccups so that if you are currently pregnant—or planning to be—you know what to expect.
Why fetal hiccups occur
Fetal hiccups are movements within your baby’s diaphragm when they begin practicing their breathing. But, unlike newborns and infants, they are not inhaling air, says Stuart Jones, MD, FACOG, an OB/GYN and attending physician at Avina Women’s Health. Instead, they are taking in amniotic fluid—the liquid that surrounds them during pregnancy.
“Fetal hiccups occur to help fetal lung maturation in utero,” says Dr. Aliabadi. “In the womb, the fetus’s diaphragm has not fully developed, so when the fetus inhales the [parent’s] surrounding amniotic fluid, the diaphragm contracts, which leads to hiccups in utero.”
When do fetal hiccups start?
Although your baby’s lungs begin to develop between 13 to 16 weeks, research indicates that fetal hiccups may be seen on an ultrasound as early as nine weeks. The hiccups are typically pretty frequent and then plateau across the third trimester.Conversely, you may not notice them until later in your pregnancy, says Dr. Aliabadi. “Every pregnant [person] can experience baby hiccups at a different time. Some [people] experience fetal hiccups as soon as 16 weeks, while others notice them later at 20 weeks to 24 weeks.”
When fetal hiccups do occur, they usually last an average of three and a half minutes. But some bouts of hiccups may last only one minute while other may last longer—as much as eight minutes. Whether or not you feel fetal hiccups can be affected by the positioning of your placenta, says Dr. Aliabadi. Changing positions, walking, and drinking more water also can have an effect on fetal hiccups.
“Fetal hiccups are a fun thing to feel in pregnancy or see on ultrasound,” says Pietro Bortoletto, MD, MSc, a reproductive endocrinologist and director of reproductive surgery at Boston IVF. “They are short bursts of practiced breathing and are totally normal. They usually start around the second trimester and are most obvious in the third trimester.”
Read the rest of the article on Verywell Family’s website.
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