Magnetographic assessment of fetal hiccups and their effect on fetal heart rhythm

Physiol Meas. 2007 Jun;28(6):665-76. doi: 10.1088/0967-3334/28/6/005. Epub 2007 May 3.


Fetal hiccups emerge as early as nine weeks post-conception, being the predominant diaphragmatic movement before 26 weeks of gestation. They are considered as a programmed isometric inspiratory muscle exercise of the fetus in preparation for the post-natal respiratory function, or a manifestation of a reflex circuitry underlying the development of suckling and gasping patterns. The present paper provides the first evidence of non-invasive biomagnetic measurements of the diaphragm spasmodic contractions associated with fetal hiccups. The magnetic field patterns generated by fetal hiccups exhibit well-defined morphological features, consisting of an initial high frequency transient waveform followed by a more prolonged low frequency component. This pattern is consistent across recordings obtained from two fetal subjects, and it is confirmed by signals recorded in a neonatal subject. These results demonstrate that fetal biomagnetometry can provide insights into the electrophysiological mechanisms of diaphragm motor function in the fetus. Additionally, we study the correlation between hiccup events and fetal cardiac rhythm and provide evidence that hiccups may modulate the fetal heart rate during the last trimester of pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetus / physiology*
  • Gestational Age
  • Heart Rate, Fetal / physiology*
  • Hiccup / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetics / instrumentation*
  • Pregnancy