The low-down on foetal hiccups

You’ll be able to feel when your baby has the hiccups, and you may be wondering why or if you should be worried. By Lisa Witepski


Your own hiccups are hard enough to bear and now you’re experiencing them vicariously through your baby. According to, hiccups are a way for your baby to test drive her developing systems and organs.

ALSO SEE: What to expect from your baby’s month-by-month development in utero

All systems go

There’s plenty that happens with each little hiccup. Your baby’s diaphragm, which will ultimately be responsible for inhalations and exhalations, is developing so hiccups are a sign her respiratory system’s development is on track. Hiccups are also a sign that your baby’s nervous system is doing well since they wouldn’t be possible if the brain and spinal cord weren’t communicating. Your baby’s reflexes are also involved − actions like suckling, yawning and thumb-sucking may lead to hiccups, so they’re proof your baby’s already mastered her early milestones.

Nothing to worry about

If you want to get scientific about it, says Dr Mokgohoe Tshabalala, director of The Birthing Team, Rand Clinic, you can understand hiccups as “a result of an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm; the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. They are a normal, physiological response to an irritation to the nerve that supplies this muscular layer.”

Just as you’ll struggle to get rid of your own hiccups, there’s very little you can do to make your little one’s vanish – so, sadly, you’ll just have to put up with those rhythmic kicks.

ALSO SEE: 5 interesting facts you may not have known about baby’s first kicks

The good news is, although they can happen several times a day, they’re absolutely harmless. They might distract you while you’re trying to focus on deadlines, but they’re not causing your baby any discomfort or distress, and absolutely no medical intervention is required, Dr Tshabalala assures.

That said, the hiccups (like most things) will probably follow a rhythm that you grow familiar with over time, and which will naturally slow down as B-day approaches. If this isn’t the case, and you notice that your baby is becoming more hiccup-y, consult you gynae, advises, as this might be caused by the umbilical cord.

scroll to top
Send this to a friend