Do you find yourself hiccuping a lot now that you’re pregnant? Are you wondering why that is and what it could mean for your baby?
We expect a lot of side effects during pregnancy. When it comes to harmless, but annoying symptoms, aches and pains, nausea, and acne are all big worries.
And we prepare ourselves because we know that even if we have a straightforward pregnancy, there will be some issues to face. But for some reason barely anyone talks about pregnancy hiccups.
So let’s look at that minor annoyance and figure out if there’s anything to worry about — other than having your partner jump out at you in an attempt to scare your hiccups away.
What Is A Hiccup?
Most people get hiccups from time to time. A hiccup is that annoying sensation when your stomach tenses up, making you catch your breath. This causes the typical “hic-cup” or “hic hic” sound that gives hiccups their name.
It can stop you from talking or eating regularly, it can make you sick, and it can even wholly interrupt your train of thought. But what are they? And why do they happen?
Well, weirdly, we don’t know. We know they are caused when the diaphragm, a long muscle in the middle of our gut, tenses up involuntarily. But we don’t know why it does that, what causes it, or what it’s supposed to be doing.
We don’t even know where it comes from regarding evolution. We know all animals with diaphragms hiccup, but it doesn’t do anything useful.
The best guess I ever read was that it is just like a normal muscle spasm but in the gut. Which isn’t very helpful, but might explain it a bit (source).
How Long Will They Last
Excessive hiccups come from the stimulation of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve does much more than controlling the diaphragm. It affects most of the digestive system and is highly activated by stress, I personally haven’t met a pregnant woman who needed medical intervention for hiccups, although there are drugs that will control them.
Editor's Note:Christine Traxler, MD, BS
Are Hiccups An Early Sign Of Pregnancy?
They absolutely can be a sign of early pregnancy. I wouldn’t spring for a pregnancy test just because you’ve had a particularly bad case of the hiccups, but that isn’t to say they aren’t an early symptom for many women.
This is because many of the causes of hiccups are related to other pregnancy symptoms.
Here are some of the other reasons you might get hiccups:
- You’re short of breath.
- You feel sick.
- You have indigestion.
- You’re eating unusual foods.
- You’re stressed.
In other words, you might not notice you are eating unusual foods more often, or that you’re feeling a bit sick a few times a day, but your body does notice.
But because most women will notice a missed period, nausea, or breast tenderness first, hiccups aren’t a reliable sign. They’re just another one of those neat little early pregnancy symptoms that start making us aware of everything that’s going on.
I Can’t Stop Hiccuping!
Some pregnant women find they are hiccuping all day and all night, waking up with hiccups, or having a random episode pretty much every day.
And if you have had an extended episode of hiccups before, you will know just how annoying it can be when they won’t go away.
In a Nutshell
The biggest cause is nausea and indigestion. When we are not digesting our food well, when we have just vomited, or when we feel about to vomit, we can start hiccuping.
Although some of this can be avoided, if you are one of the unfortunate women who have persistent nausea throughout pregnancy, your hiccups might be just as permanent.
Emotional stress and excitement can make you hiccup too. Even if your hiccups are caused by indigestion, they might be made worse by being too overexcited.
Save Yourself Some Drama, Mama
Can Hiccuping Too Much Hurt My Baby?
Some women suppress their hiccups, worried the pressure of the belly tensing might harm their babies. Personally, I knew a few mamas-to-be who did this.
Now, there is always a chance that a bout of hiccups might break your water or start contractions. But if this happens, it will be because you were already within hours, or at most within a day, of labor anyway.
The hiccups just started it a tiny bit faster, just like eating spicy foods or having sex can encourage your waters to break a few hours early as well. You don’t need to worry about hiccups causing premature labor — there is absolutely nothing to suggest this has ever happened (source).
I Can’t Eat Because Of Hiccups
If hiccups are stopping you from eating, then you have double the problems — and all at a time when it is very important to eat well. It’s like our bodies are trying to get us not to eat.
If your hiccups are stopping you from eating, you might find it easier to carry some high carb, low sugar, low salt, low-fat snacks.
- Low salt crackers.
- Rice cakes or corn cakes.
- Unflavored popcorn.
- Dry cereal.
These are less likely to cause indigestion than other foods. And try and snack a bit between hiccup episodes.
It might be tempting to have a huge feast as soon as the hiccups are gone, but this can make them start again.
Hiccups Are Keeping Me Up All Night
If your hiccups are stopping you from sleeping, then one of two things is likely happening. Either your before-bed meal habits are not very good, or you are stressed at night.
If you eat a large meal right before bed, snack in bed, or wake up in the night for snacks, you are probably not eating enough during the day.
- Try to eat your biggest meal in the middle of the day, when you are not so vulnerable to nausea or indigestion.
- Try to avoid fatty and protein-rich foods before bed.
- At all times avoid acidic, spicy, and vinegary foods too.
If your diet is not a trigger for your hiccups, or you don’t eat much before bed, and you still get them, it could just be stress. The same way that anxiety at night can cause insomnia, it can cause hiccups.
In this case, you might want to talk to your doctor or a therapist about your concerns. Even talking to a friend or relative can take some weight off your mind, stopping your hiccups and helping you sleep.
How Can I Get Relief From My Hiccups?
We’ve already explored a few ways to prevent hiccups — eat a balanced diet to avoid indigestion and do not get too emotional or excited. Both of which are easier said than done when we are pregnant.
So what can we do when we inevitably don’t eat properly or when we inevitably do get excited? Here are a few tips to help eliminate hiccups:
- Have things that make you swallow. Drinking water, dissolving sugar in the mouth, or sucking on sour candy can all make us swallow, and that motion can help relax the diaphragm.
- Lie down to fight indigestion. If you have serious indigestion, lying down can help relax the diaphragm.
- Do breathing exercises. If you are stressed or excited, breathing mindfully or meditating can help calm you down.
Although all these tips are worth a try, none are guaranteed to help. The only guaranteed cure for hiccups is time.
Isn’t It Silly To See My Doctor About Hiccups?
Not at all! Chances are, if you want to see your doctor, you haven’t been having hiccups for just 2 to 5 minutes, right?
Normally by the time we consider seeing a doctor, we have had hiccups for a day, or we have had one or more episodes of hiccups every day for a week.
These are not normal hiccup patterns and are worth checking out, especially if you have had consistent hiccups for over 48 hours.
Hiccups that last this long are very rare and are often a symptom of a physical problem.
Illnesses that can cause persistent hiccups include:
- Breathing conditions such as asthma or pneumonia.
- Heart conditions such as pericarditis.
- Digestive conditions such as reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, or appendicitis.
- Nerve conditions such as multiple sclerosis.
- Metabolic conditions such as diabetes, or Addison’s disease.
- A hernia.
- An infection that is affecting the nerves in the gut.
- A bad reaction to certain medications or drugs.
Hiccups during pregnancy, most of the time, are nothing to worry about. They just mean you are excited and nauseous, and they will go away on their own. They will not hurt you or your baby.
Unless you have hiccups for two or more days without relief, they’re just another annoying side effect of being pregnant.
Have you struggled with hiccups in your pregnancies? How did you soldier through them?
If you know a mom who can’t shake her hiccups or worries about everything, please share this article with her.