You’re pregnant: yay! And you have the hiccups: boo! Not ‘boo’ as in scary; ‘boo’ as in ‘what a total pain in the boop.’ Who wants to hic? Not you, lady who’s very busy building a baby.
First, rest easy (if the hics will let you): This is totally normal, and nothing to worry about. As many as 70% of pregnant women get regular bouts of hiccups throughout their pregnancies, from as early as two weeks in until right up to delivery.
One mother says, ‘It’s really funny when we both have them at the same time!” Because yes, babies in utero get the hiccups too1 (source), but it’s much cuter in them.
And it’s just as normal as it is for you, although there is no clarity on why infants get them; the speculation is that it has to do with lung maturation.
Back to you, mama: Let’s unravel this thing, and when we get to the end of it, hopefully it will be the end of your hiccups too.
What Makes Us Hic?
Hiccups are sudden involuntary contractions of your diaphragm (which sits between the bottom of your lungs and the rest of your abdominal cavity), each of which triggers a sudden closing of your vocal cords, making the vaguely comedic ‘hic’ sound.
All animals with diaphragms hiccup, but there’s no real sense of the evolutionary use for this. It appears to be a simple muscle spasm in the gut2. (Source.)
There are many (some pretty random-seeming) potential triggers for these spasms and the subsequent hiccups, including the consumption of carbonated drinks; imbibing too much alcohol (as seen in many cartoons and old movies); overeating; excitement or stress; sudden changes of temperature in your belly, or swallowing air (while chewing gum or eating2) (source).
Essentially, shock, pressure, or too much of something will cause the diaphragm to react.
Should I Worry?
Hiccups during pregnancy can be as benign as having to wait at a stop sign, as annoying as sitting in a traffic jam with an oversharing colleague, or as crazy-making as that single mosquito in your bedroom when you’re trying to sleep.
On the easy end of the spectrum, you have a few hics a few times a week; on the ‘make it stop already’ end, they’re interrupting your meals, your conversations, and even your sleep.
Hiccups that come and go are absolutely normal, while hiccups that have no manners and never leave could be cause for concern; so seek professional medical advice if this happens.
Most typically, expectant mothers experience short and frequent bursts of a few hiccups at a time.
Why Do I Get Hiccups While Pregnant?
– Changes in digestion due to hormones (excess saliva, nausea, morning sickness, heartburn, indigestion, constipation—pregnancy hormones slow down the digestive process)
– Fetal placement—perhaps creating pressure on the diaphragm, particularly in the third trimester. This could result in shorter breaths, thus triggering hiccups.
– Changes in breathing: A woman inhales 30-40% more oxygen during pregnancy, to supply the growing fetus. This disruption can cause the diaphragm to react, and create hiccups.
– Nausea and vomiting can trigger hiccups.
– Emotional stress and/or excitement can also shake things up and cause a bout of hiccups.
So, it’s easy to see why it’s not uncommon for pregnant women to experience these outbursts.
A Couple Of Anecdotes And Myths About Hiccups And Pregnancy
– Hiccups are an early sign of pregnancy (somewhat less reliable than breast tenderness, missed periods, nausea etc).
– Hiccups during pregnancy are an indicator that your baby will be born with a full head of hair.
– Hiccups during pregnancy are a sign that you will suffer from acid reflux, and/or the baby will suffer from acid reflux.
These are highly unscientific claims, and should be utterly ignored.
Hic Hic, Go Away!
While it’s not entirely possible for you to stop hiccups during pregnancy altogether, no matter what techniques or methods you put to use, there are a few things you can do to help ease the situation.
If yours are of the more transient type—but still as irritating as an unwanted guest—experiment with these safe and simple methods:
– Things that might help your digestion system: Eat slowly; avoid very hot and very cold foods (so much for the ice cream cravings); avoid spicy foods (so not fun); and eat smaller meals.
Avoid carbonated drinks.
And whatever you do, don’t laugh while you’re eating, because apparently that can have you gulping air. (It’s starting to look like having hiccups is more fun than not having them, right?)
– Sip on water slowly and avoid downing one glass of water after the other thinking that shoving all of that down your throat as fast as you can is going to help.
Not only is it not a race, downing one glass of water after another really fast is not going to help – on the contrary, it might even make things worse.
Also, sipping on iced water slowly will help you get rid of the hiccups more than doing so with warm water.
– Ditch the water and focus on the ice instead if you’re feeling like it.
As we’ve already covered in another article, many women experience ice cravings during pregnancy, so chewing on some ice instead of forcing yourself to chug down water might be a more suitable idea to help you get rid of those annoying hiccups.
This is especially true if you’re feeling nauseous (ugh – morning sickness) at the time, since you won’t be able to drink a glass of water without throwing it back up again shortly afterwards anyways.
– Relax and focus on something else; try meditating, even just on the sipping of a glass of water.
– Gargle. Since we’re talking about interrupting normal breathing patterns to help get rid of hiccups, many moms-to-be find that gargling with some chilled water helps out.
– Pull on/stick out your tongue. This works because it makes you laugh your boop off and forget about the hiccups. It can also trigger a shift in your diaphragm.
– Swallowing can relax the diaphragm, so suck on a ginger candy; sip water slowly; nibble on a slice of lemon or lime, all of which trigger your saliva glands.
– Bend forward to relieve the pressure on the diaphragm—which, combined with ’sipping water slowly’ is probably why so many people drink a glass of water from the wrong side (i.e. bent over, with your chin basically in the cup) to relieve hiccups.
– But mainly, chill. The hiccups can help to remind you to slow down and rest; they might be your body’s rather literal way of telling you to catch your breath, and take it easy.
Become slow-moving Zen-mama. Be the sloth. Let that baby do all the work: You’ll be making up for it soon enough!
Wrapping It Up
So, panicking-momma-to-be, here’s the takeaway from all of this – stop worrying!
Around 70% of pregnant women report experiencing hiccups during different trimesters of their pregnancy, so you’re not alone in this. On the contrary, the majority is right there with you, being embarrassed and feeling annoyed.
And, as always, remember that your doctor is there for you to reassure you about anything and everything unusual you might be worried about during your pregnancy – especially if you notice any suspicious symptoms happening at the same time.
Whether it’s your own health you’re worried about or the well being of the baby in your tummy, talk to your doctor for further reassurance and they’ll diagnose anything that needs medical intervention (if it’s there in the first place).
- My Baby Hiccups in the Womb: Is This Normal? https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/baby-hiccups-in-womb#1. Accessed June 24, 2019.
- https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiccups/symptoms-causes/syc-20352613. Accessed June 24, 2019.
- How Do I Get Rid of the Hiccups? https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/hiccups-treatment. Accessed June 24, 2019.