What are Prenatal Hiccups?

Posted by | November 16, 2019 | Pregnancy Health | No Comments

Synopsis: What are prenatal hiccups and should moms be worried?

Prenatal hiccups are a very common and normal phenomenon of the developing fetus. The expectant mother generally feels prenatal hiccups in the second trimester, although they may occur earlier and generally taper off early in the third trimester.

What’s happening during prenatal hiccups?

This spontaneous movement occurs after the central nervous system reaches maturity in utero, when the fetus gains the capability to make “breathing” type movements in and out. The fetus sucks in and expels some of the surrounding amniotic fluid. At this point, the muscle separating the fetal chest and abdominal cavities rapidly contracts, resulting in a hiccup. Hiccups do not appear to cause any discomfort to the fetus and oxygen is still being amply supplied via the unbillical cord.

What will I feel when my unborn child hiccups?

When a fetus hiccups, the pregnant mother often feels small, repeated spasms in her womb, distinct from larger fetal movements, like startles or kicks, for example. Hiccup movements are short and rhythmic. The hiccups may show up on ultrasound as small thrusting movements of the body.

What is the purpose of fetal hiccups?

The prevailing theory is that fetal hiccupping is “a programmed isometric exercise” as described by research scholars at Northwestern University Medical School in the medical journal Gut, who note that, “both fetuses and premature babies have hiccupping spells.”

In essence, prenatal hiccups are thought to be a form of “practice” or reflex development, helping the fetus learn the movements of suckling that will be necessary to feed (without choking) as soon as he or she is born. Hiccups also appear to help regulate the fetal heart rate during the third trimester.

When should I worry about prenatal hiccups?

Rarely, the hiccupping movement may signal a problem requiring medical attention. Hiccupping may mean that the unborn baby isn’t getting enough air. This rare complication is known as umbilical cord compression or entanglement, when the cord wraps around the baby’s neck. Signs to watch for include a sudden increase in fetal hiccupping, followed by increased fetal movement. Your obstetrician may notice an increase in the fetal heart rate as well. An ultrasound should be conducted immediately, however there’s no need to panic, as cord compression generally occurs over time, rather than suddenly.

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Sources here and here.

Dr. Mark Gostine

About Dr. Mark Gostine

A physician for more than 30 years. He is a proud father of four and a grandfather of two. The announcement of his daughter Emily’s first pregnancy and the joy of his first grandchild, were major turning points in his life. They became the inspiration for babyQ. From then on, he wanted to dedicate his clinical knowledge and energy to helping young women have healthier pregnancies and better babies. Voted one of the best 100 doctors in his field in America, Dr. Gostine is a practitioner of nutrition who creates health education modules for his patients. He, along with Dr. of my children,” he says. “My hope is that young mothers and fathers everywhere will give their children the best start because it is so much better to prevent disease early than treat it later.” Dr. Gostine, a native of Michigan, received his medical degree from Wayne State University College of Medicine in Detroit, and is Board Certified in both anesthesiology and pain management. He completed his undergraduate studies and his medical residency in anesthesiology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, followed by a pain management fellowship at the Kansas City Consortium in Missouri. Currently President of Michigan Pain Consultants and Founder of ProCare Systems, he is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.