What Do Fetal Hiccups Feel Like?

Yes, your baby hiccups in the womb! Discover what fetal hiccups feel like and what causes them.

Medically reviewed by Renita White, MD

Did you know that your baby hiccups in the womb? That's right: Fetal hiccups are just one of the fetal movements pregnant people experience as their baby practices for life outside the womb. Fetal hiccups can feel a little strange initially, especially if this is your first pregnancy. But they are a normal part of your baby's development.

Most pregnant people will feel fetal movements for the first time between 16 and 24 weeks, says Thais Aliabadi, MD, an OB-GYN and co-founder of Trimly. And baby hiccups can happen right alongside those kicks, twists, and turns.

"As you progress further in your pregnancy, the 'little baby kicks' become a daily norm," she notes. "At times, you might feel a different type of movement that feels more rhythmic or pulsating. This can be known as fetal hiccups."

<p>Ariel Skelley / Getty Images</p>

Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

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 baby hiccups in the womb so that you know what to expect.

Why Your Baby Hiccups in the Womb

Fetal hiccups happen as your baby's diaphragm moves when they begin practicing their breathing.

But unlike newborns and infants, babies in the womb 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," Dr. Aliabadi explains. "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."

Just like outside the womb, these hiccups last for a short time and then go away on their own.

Fetal Hiccups on Ultrasound

Hiccups are similar to the rhythmic motion of breathing, but they occur with more force. On an ultrasound, you can see that these practice breaths cause the fetus's entire body to move in a mild jerking motion, which some pregnant people can feel.

When Do Fetal Hiccups Start?

Dr. Aliabadi explains that every pregnant person will experience fetal hiccups at a different time, noting: "Some [pregnant people] experience fetal hiccups as soon as 16 weeks, while others notice them later at 20 weeks to 24 weeks."

"Fetal hiccups are short bursts of practiced breathing and are totally normal," adds Pietro Bortolett, MD, MSc, a reproductive endocrinologist and director of reproductive surgery at Boston IVF. "They usually start around the second trimester and are most obvious in the third trimester."

Whether or not you feel your baby's hiccups in the womb can be affected by the positioning of your placenta, says Dr. Aliabadi. Changing positions, walking, and drinking more water can also affect fetal hiccups. "Fetal hiccups are a fun thing to feel in pregnancy or see on ultrasound," notes Dr. Bortolett.

Related: 7 Ways To Encourage Your Baby To Move During Pregnancy

What Fetal Hiccups Feel Like

You may not notice your baby hiccuping in the womb at all, says Dr. Bortoletto. "It's very unlikely you will feel every single hiccup. But hiccups actually happen a whole lot more than people ever realize," he adds.

Even the position of your baby can impact how you experience fetal hiccups. According to Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN, an author, registered dietitian, and mom of three, "My first baby was breech, so I felt the hiccups closer to my belly button. But my second baby was head down, so I felt them lower in my abdomen. Fetal hiccups are the most bizarre feeling, and it was so concerning that I called my OB-GYN about it!"

When you do feel fetal hiccups, they may present as rhythmic and pulsating, explains Dr. Aliabadi: "They are not random, sudden single movements like fetal kicks."

Many pregnant people report that fetal hiccups can feel weird, bizarre, or even strange, especially if this is your first pregnancy and you don't know what to expect. Here are some descriptions of what baby hiccups in the womb can feel like.


Sharon Mazel, parenting and pregnancy expert, and author of "Bite-Sized Parenting," says that with her four pregnancies, all the fetal hiccups felt pretty much the same.

"I have four children, and their in-utero kicks felt different throughout pregnancy," she explains. "But their hiccups all felt the same—quick repetitive motions that felt like steady rhythmic twitchings. I loved feeling them, and I especially loved seeing their newborn hiccups after birth, since it reminded me of that pregnancy feeling."


"With both of my kids, it felt like a repetitive fluttering," explains Joanna Stephens, parent of two and founder of the parenting site She's Your Friend. "It was the oddest sensation, but one that I would never forget."


Meanwhile, Talitha Phillips, a labor and postpartum doula and CEO of the non-profit community medical clinic Claris Health, says sometimes fetal hiccups can feel like little, patterned bubbles or even a rhythmic heartbeat in your tummy.

"I remember thinking that something was ticking in my stomach," she says. "I felt this little tap that kept happening over, and over every other second or so."

Are Fetal Hiccups Dangerous?

You may have heard that fetal hiccups occurring in late pregnancy could indicate a problem with the umbilical cord—like a compressed or prolapsed cord. But that theory was based on a study done with sheep and has not been proven in humans. In fact, baby hiccups in the womb are generally thought of as a good sign.

"Fetal hiccups are not a cause for concern," Dr. Jones says. "Some will ask: 'Is my baby having a seizure?' But an actual seizure [in utero] is extremely rare. Fetal hiccups are a completely different movement than a spastic movement of a seizure."

It is generally not concerning if your baby is hiccuping a lot, Dr. Jones says. "I reassure [patients] that fetal hiccups are nothing to worry about. We typically see them more around 26 to 28 weeks and are a sign of fetal well-being."

The occurrence of fetal hiccups may decrease as you get closer to your delivery date, Dr. Aliabad says, which is normal and not a reason for concern.

Navigating Fetal Hiccups

Here are some tips for pregnant people experiencing fetal hiccups.

  • Track fetal kick counts (not hiccups) at the end of your pregnancy. These fetal movements let them know your baby is active and doing well.

  • Get to know your baby's normal activity. Counting fetal kicks can help you determine how active your baby is and what types of movements are normal for them. For instance, you may discover your baby gets more active at certain parts of the day or night, or after eating a certain type of food.

  • Call your doctor if you notice decreased fetal movement. Decreased fetal movements—or anything that feels concerning—should always be reported to your health care provider right away. They will be able to assess the situation and determine if any action is needed.

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