Did you ever hear this line when you were a child?
“If you hiccup one more time, I’ll give you a dollar!”
The funny thing is, it works! At least, the first time.
The science behind this trick is that it changes the way you breathe as you impatiently wait for your next hiccup. You practically “cure” your hiccups, on your own, by holding your breath or at the very least, breathing very shallowly.
However, it doesn’t always work. Not after the first time anyway.
First, let’s look at the science behind hiccups.
The Science of Hiccups
While the medical field can’t pinpoint the exact cause of why hiccups happen with any certainty, they do agree on what happens when you hiccup.
A hiccup occurs when the diaphragm, which sits between the bottom of your lungs and the rest of your abdominal cavity, starts acting out of sorts. Obviously, controlling our diaphragm is not possible for anyone, pregnant or otherwise.
In a hiccup, your diaphragm is pulled down quickly, allowing air to come into the lungs faster the normal. Your vocal cords close with the unexpected rush of air and…you’ve had your first hiccup!
Followed a few moments later by the second hiccup, and third, and fourth…and so on. Once they start, it seems impossible to get them to stop!
Hiccup Causes during Pregnancy
So now that you know how a hiccup works, you might be able to see why pregnancy is a common time for hiccups.
If hiccups are caused by an irritation to the diaphragm or your lungs, you can imagine how the ever-changing-pregnant body might have hiccups more often than a regular body.
Main causes of hiccups during pregnancy:
1. Digestive Issues
Pregnancy is typically a time when women suffer from all kinds of digestive problems. It may be excess saliva, nausea, morning sickness, heartburn, indigestion, all the way to constipation. Pregnancy hormones that cause your digestive system to slow down are to blame for them all.
Some things you can do to help your digestive system is to eat slower, chew your food well, avoid both very hot or very cold foods, avoid spicy foods, and don’t eat too much. A full stomach is not always a happy stomach.
Other foods known to trigger hiccups during pregnancy are dry bread and carbonated drinks.
2. A Change in Breathing
A pregnant woman’s body works extremely hard to grow a baby human. Therefore, it needs more. More vitamins, more minerals, more water, more sleep, and more oxygen.
These things occur even without us noticing. Pregnancy is truly amazing in this way.
With each breath, a pregnant woman’s body will bring in 30 to 40% more oxygen than usual. The extra demand of oxygen means that your body changes the way you breathe. These deeper breaths, which gather more oxygen into the lungs which sit right above the diaphragm, may be just the thing that triggers a round of hiccups.
3. A Mother’s Vigilance Begins
Many women often become more aware of what’s happening in their bodies when the become pregnant. If you find yourself suddenly having more hiccups during pregnancy, you might find yourself worrying about this unexpected change.
“Didn’t I just have hiccups a couple days ago? Why do I have hiccups again? Is it a sign that something is wrong? Will this hurt my baby?”
Remember, hiccups are usually a result of an irritated diaphragm and during pregnancy, everything tends to be easily irritated. Rather than worry about having hiccups yet again, remind yourself that this is all in the spectrum of normal.
4. Diaphragm, Meet Your Uterus
As the growing uterus begins to outgrow the abdominal cavity and push up into your lungs during the third trimester, the diaphragm gets caught in between. This is irritating enough on it’s own to trigger a round of hiccups.
However, it also aggravates the second point – A Change in Breathing. Since your lungs are now feeling the pressure, your breathing might speed up since there is less room for your lungs to expand.
This might mean…more hiccups!
How to Stop Hiccups during Pregnancy
- Drink a full cup full of water – sit down with a cup of water or whatever beverage you can stomach. You can try drinking it all at once, but if you’re prone to queasiness or morning sickness, a better idea would be to sip it instead. The key here is to relax.
- Dissolve sugar under your tongue – unless you have gestational diabetes or other blood sugar problems that your Doctor has warned you about, you can give this home remedy a try. Put a teaspoon of sugar under your tongue and let it dissolve on it’s own.
- Holding your breath – the purpose of holding your breath is to try to relax the diaphragm. No need to worry that your unborn baby’s oxygen supply will be affected. Your blood is rich with oxygen and will continue to circulate to the placenta.
- Lime or Ginger – chew on some ginger or suck on a wedge of lime. This is another home remedy that is natural and safe for most pregnant women to try.
- Pull out your tongue – this trick apparently helps your diaphragm readjust itself. There is no science behind this but it’s easy enough to try!
- Gargle with water – similar to holding your breath, gargling might be the trigger your diaphragm needs to calm down.
The Bottom Line
Hiccups are usually harmless and mean nothing.
If you’re bothered by frequent hiccups, it doesn’t hurt to mention it to your doctor or midwife. He or she may be able to give you reassurance that all is well and that hiccups, although disturbing to you, are not harming your baby.
If there is something you can do to minimize hiccups, it would be to eat slowly and not too much as well as practicing deep breathing and relaxation exercises frequently.
Above all, don’t get anxious when you get hiccups. It will only make things worse. Use the appearance of hiccups during pregnancy as a reminder to slow down and rest. It will benefit both you and your unborn baby.