Pregnancy is a fascinating journey, for you and your baby. Your wee one goes from a cluster of cells to full-blown human being in just nine months. Fingers, toes, and organs are developed in utero—as are baby’s spine and bones—and everything changes quickly. One moment you’re suffering from morning sickness, the next you’re giving birth.
But with everything happening so rapidly, and with every sensation being so new, you may find yourself with a lot of questions. Is that feeling normal? What about that pain, ache, or twinge? Oh, and that popping sensation: What's going on there? What's up with that?
Well, don’t fret, yet. There’s a simple explanation for most prenatal movements, and the cause of the latter one? It’s baby hiccups. Yes, baby’s can hiccup in the womb. Here’s everything you need to know about fetal hiccups, burps, and gas.
Can Babies Hiccup In the Womb?
The short answer is yes: Babies can hiccup in the womb. “Hiccups in the womb may begin at the end of the first trimester or during the start of the second trimester,” says Kire Stojkovsk, a practicing medical doctor with the Farr Institute. “Normally, hiccups last 1 to 2 minutes, though they can linger for longer. They then go away on their own.”
“It is absolutely normal for babies to develop hiccups inside the womb,” Stojkovsk adds.
Can Babies Burp In the Womb?
While it is possible for babies to hiccup in the womb, babies do not burp in the womb. “Babies do not burp in the uterus as there is no air,” Greg Marchand M.D., FACOG, FACS, and board-certified OB-GYN, says. “They can spit up the amniotic fluid they are swallowing,” he adds. “But this is rarely observed, except in cases of fetal birth defects.”
What Causes Fetal Hiccups?
While babies can hiccup in the womb, the cause of hiccups is unclear. Some babies hiccup frequently, even multiple times a day. Others do not hiccup at all. And while the reasoning isn't well understood, most experts agree: Fetal hiccups are not dangerous or detrimental. Rather, they are a sign of a healthy pregnancy.
“Fetal hiccups are never cause for alarm,” Dr. Marchand says. “In fact, the opposite is true; they are a sign of good oxygenation. A particular test used by obstetricians—called a biophysical profile—actually makes use of fetal hiccups as an indicator that a baby is receiving enough oxygen from the placenta.” Indeed, hiccups are actually a byproduct of lung maturation and development.
What Do Hiccups In the Womb Feel Like?
Rhythmic, consistent, and persistent, fetal hiccups feel like like a pulsation or twitch. “It's like a bag of popcorn is being popped in your belly,” one Facebook user writes. “It's like a tiny knock,” another said. “Fluttering. Like actual butterflies in my stomach.”
Of course, the sensation can vary in intensity, particularly as the pregnancy progresses. But it is notable, to be sure.
Should You Be Concerned?
Fetal hiccups are completely and totally normal. They are not cause for concern. However, you know your baby and body well, and if something feels “off” you should speak to your doctor.