In-Utero Practice Breathing

During my pregnancy with my first baby I had a somewhat unique experience in that I was able to feel him practice breathing in the womb.  Babies practice breathing movements with increasing frequency towards the end of pregnancy, but usually this is only seen via ultrasound and the mother can’t feel OR see it happening.

A mysterious sensation

38 weeks pregnant with baby #1

I was about 32 weeks pregnant when we had a prenatal visit (and I was up to a whopping 140 pounds—looking back, that seems very thin, but at the time I felt like I had gained  a lot of weight!) . Since 30 weeks I’d been feeling what I thought was the baby practicing breathing. My husband was able to feel it too, as well as occasionally physically see it—a rhythmic sort of pulsing sensation located where the baby’s back was and feeling like a rising/falling breath type sensation (like a cat under a blanket). I noticed it once or twice daily. Very different than the hiccups, which I also felt often. I wanted to mention it to the doctor to see if that was really what I was feeling, because lots of books and things say you won’t be able to feel those movements, but I didn’t want to be wrong and be embarrassed for having a kooky idea about feeling him breathe. (When we mentioned the feeling to my mom, she looked at us like we were quite nutty to think we could feel it!)

A prenatal appointment and a doctor’s surprise

At the prenatal appointment, I laid down to have my fundal height measured (32) and the baby’s heartbeat checked and he was conveniently doing the breathing thing at that exact moment! My husband asked the doctor about it and told her we thought it was breathing. She quickly disregarded the breathing hypothesis, saying it was unlikely we’d be able to feel that, but she was fascinated by the movements and listened with the Doppler trying to figure it out etc. She thought for a minute that it had something to do with my pulse and checked that, but it didn’t match, plus was just on one side of my belly where his back is. She also felt with her hands, etc. It was particularly strong that day—usually I felt a sort of pulsing and could also feel it with my hand. On this occasion, it was like the left side of my belly was rising and falling rhythmically in a very noticeable way. She said she’d never felt or seen anything like it before.

Then (this was the weird part), she said that maybe I should have an ultrasound to see what the baby was doing in there. This doctor was a crunchy-mild-mannered-has-you-call-her-by-her-first-name-homebirth-attending -birth-center-low-intervention-doesn’t-break-your-water-unless-the-baby-is-born-in-the-sac sort of doctor, so I was really shocked by that. I said I really didn’t think that was necessary, because I wasn’t worried about it we just thought it was breathing (again, we get a look that vaguely implies that we are nutty). She kept saying she’d never seen it before and said she was going to call one of her consulting doctor friends, “just because I’m curious,” to see what he thought about maybe needing an ultrasound.

After she left to call him, I started to feel nervous that something might actually be wrong. I knew how this doctor was and she did not seem like the type at all who would be calling other doctors unless she was a little worried about something. My husband kept saying that, “no, she is just curious about what it is,” but the “curious” wording felt to me like a don’t-want-alarm-the-mother-but-I-think-something-is-up type of doctor speak. Also, I knew her well enough to know that running off to call other people in the middle of an appointment wasn’t in character for her, especially since the mom (me) was saying it didn’t seem necessary. So, I briefly became petrified that the baby was having seizures or something.

Trust the mother!

She came back in a bit and had consulted with her ultrasound doctor friend who had said, “let me guess. This mom is thin and very healthy” and then confirmed that it was just the baby’s breathing movements we were seeing. He told her that you usually don’t see them on the outside, just via ultrasound, but it is still normal and just means that the baby is healthy and he is getting good practice. When she came back, the doctor also brought the practice’s midwife in to see, since the midwife had never seen anything like it either, but it had mostly stopped by then. This doctor has been in practice since 1992 and has had four kids of her own and the midwife has six kids and a 20-year practice. The doctor explained that she’d seen the breathing movements on ultrasound before, but they were always more like occasional gasp-type things, not steady and pulsing like that and not visible externally. She thanked me for teaching her something new :)

I liked being right about what was going on (trust the mother! She usually knows what’s up!) and I liked that my pregnancy had something “new” or special to it to show to someone for whom pregnancy is quite routine. Being able to feel my baby breathe in the womb was one of the special things about this first pregnancy.

(Side note: the doctor then said, “I’ll bet he comes out screaming” and as a matter of fact this baby did begin to cry when only his head was sticking out of my body!)

Note (added 3/2/2013):

A lot of mothers come to this post because of concerns similar to my own…what if my baby is having seizures in the uterus? Of course I am not able to tell you with 100% certainty that your baby is not having seizures, but here are two things to pay attention to that may set your mind at ease and allow you to enjoy this special connection with your baby:

  • One way to help you feel confident that it is practice breathing is to pay attention to whether it happens at the same time(s) each day. There’s usually a pattern to it.
  • Another way to tell with almost total accuracy is to notice if the baby gets hiccups shortly after and “episode.” A lot of babies will practice breathe and then get hiccups from their practice.

This post is modified from a message board posting that I made shortly after the events described above.

148 thoughts on “In-Utero Practice Breathing

  1. So cool that you were able to feel that! That story also shows you had providers who were willing to listen to and believe what you were saying! (Well, after a second opinion.)

  2. Wow. I also experienced this with my first pregnancy. My Dr even told me it was possibly the baby having seizures. When I looked in all the ‘good’ pregnancy books the only thing I could find on anything similar was; if you are having a boy they sometimes they like to rub on the side of the womb cause it feels good, umm yer ok.

    The sensation you described is exactly what I described to my Dr and he also saw it. Shows that my Dr wasn’t open minded enough. In my 2nd pregnancy I felt quickening at 9 weeks and got the response of it just your imagination. But when my hubby could feel it at 11 weeks I knew I hadn’t been wrong. I wish I trusted my instinct with my first would have saved me a whole bunch of worry about possible seizures and such.

  3. I have felt the exact same sensation twice, and the second time it happened today!

    The first time, was when i was playing music for the baby, and it started with this rhythmic motion, but i thought it was just the baby grooving.

    I’ve had quite a few hic ups happening, and right now I’m 34 weeks. But today, I was sitting and the same movement started again, it lasted maybe 2 minutes, then the baby moved, and i couldn’t feel it anymore. I could also see my belly moving up and down in one spot I was conveniently at a massage therapist appointment, and she hadn’t ever seen it either….

  4. Thank god for your blog! I have been told by numerous midwifes that it is my imagination and that this is not possible….now i know i am not mad! The only thing I am a bit concerned about is whether your baby was big or not. my 1st baby was 9.6lb and I am worried that the fact I can see baby breathing is a sign that its going to be a whoppa!

    • I’m glad it was helpful, Andrea! The baby I could see the most was only 8lbs 4oz. My second, I could sometimes see, but not with the frequency or clarity and he was 9lbs 2oz. Congratulations on your new baby! I hope you have a lovely birth.

  5. Hi! My 4th baby boy in utero is actually practicing right this moment,..and I also always feel the hiccups which are quick jerk movements. These are diff.,..like a doggie who needs water while breathing with his tongue hangin’ out! LOL ! My hand on my belly can actually go up and down quickely for a couple of mins. Sometimes he’ll only do it for about 1 min. or so. I’m @ 34 weeks right now! I can’t wait to hold my baby boy! Congratz and gl to all of you! <3

  6. OH PS- My 3 other children had their heads sticking out of me and screamed at the top of their lungs! LOl So funny that you wrote that! It’s amazing! :)

    • I just realized I hadn’t responded to your comment–I think it is funny that your babies were crying with only their heads out as well! I do wonder if there is a relationship…

  7. Great little article! I’ve been wondering if this is what I’ve been feeling, and I think it is. I’m almost 36 weeks, and am also thin, and have been feeling it for the past 2 weeks or so.

    I’m curious, when did you go into labor? I’ve just read on another site that feeling this means that labor is soon inevitable. Did you go full term?

    ~Joanna

    • He was born at 39w5d–so really, very close to full term! My second baby who I could also feel (but much less frequently) was born on his due date. Congratulations on your almost-here baby!

  8. I am actually experiencing this for the first time right now! I’m so glad I found your story. I’m 36 weeks today and this is my first pregnancy and I haven’t been around anyone who has been pregnant. I don’t like calling the doctor when I’m curious about something so I always google what’s going on. At first I thought he was breathing but then I wondered if it was possible I could feel and see it. So now I know I’m not crazy! lol

  9. I absolutely loved reading your blog. I’m just starting my 32nd week of pregnancy with my first baby. I haven’t gained too much weight (about 18 pounds to date) and everyone tells me I’m “all baby.” A few times now I’ve felt the same movements you describe right above my pubic bone. My baby gets the hiccupps frequently so I knew thats not what I was feeling (those are totally different). This was a soft, rhythmic, rising and lowering of a specific spot on my lower abdomen. I even said to my husband, “it feels like she is practicing breathing!” He felt the movements too! It was amazing. Thanks so much for your blog!

  10. omg!!!! I am sooooooooooo glad to read about your story. Today I have been feeling and SEEING the same thing. And you are right, it’s not at all like hiccups. I was wondering if it was possible to see this kind of thing and I see now that it is. Wow its soooo amazing to see and feel your baby breathing before they are even born. Thank you sooooooo much for posting this!
    I am 33 1/2 weeks into my 3rd pregnancy. My 1st pregnancy I couldnt feel the baby move all that much because the placenta was between the baby and my stomach. But this pregnancy I feel EVERYTHING!!!! my second pregnancy, I lost the baby at 7 and a half weeks.

  11. Just an added tidbit. I have only gained about 4-7 pounds to date. I know its not alot, but the baby is growing, my belly measures 34 cm. and it increases every week. so I am guessing that is why I can feel the baby breathing this way.

  12. I’m so glad you posted this! The SAME thing has been happening to me the past couple of weeks and I thought the same thing “she’s having seizures in utero”, and reading this has calmed me! Thank you so much!
    33 weeks today!

  13. This is what happened to me yesterday at my non-stress testing appt (I am 35 weeks with gestational diabetes). Just as I was laying down for my u/s my belly was pulsating and I knew it wasn’t the hiccups. The u/s technician said that she couldn’t feel anything but I could see and feel it! Anyway, we checked on the u/s and she said the baby was practising her breathing and that women don’t usually feel that unless they are skinny….I’ve put on 16 pds so far (none in the last 10 weeks cos of the strict GD diet)

  14. Boy, am I glad I found your blog! I was just sitting here getting all worried about what I’m currently feeling. 37+3 wks and have been experiencing the same thing for the past few weeks. You can clearly see my tummy rise and fall rhythmically and it definitely looks like the baby practice breathing. I didn’t feel this with my first but I’ve hardly put any weight on this time (running around after a toddler all day does that!) and it’s definitely NOT hiccups as the baby gets these all the time.

    Thanks for posting this!

  15. Wow, your blog has made me so happy! I am 36 weeks today, with my first pregnancy. A week ago I had noticed that I had this strange up and down movement on one spot (babies back), so I had my coworkers feel it and they could see it, they all said they never had that and it could just be a vein of mine. But it kept happening everyday. And right now it is happening again and has been for the passed 10 minutes! The thing diffrent from me and you is that I’m not thin, I’m a curvy women with little stomach fat tho. I have also only gained 14 lbs during this pregnancy. And at my ultrasound 5 days ago I was told that my baby is weighing in at 8lbs already. So that could be the reason why I am able to feel and see baby moving. I don’t know what the sex of my baby is, and was kind of wondering what you ladies are having!?! Thanks again for this blog! :D I feel very special that I can experience this too!

    • I’m glad it helped, Danielle! Thank you for adding your story. I like how this post has become a “thread” of women sharing their similar experiences :) I do think it is a special experience and I felt lucky to have it! My babies were both boys and were 8lbs4oz and 9lbs2oz at their births.

  16. I am 38 weeks pregnant as of today and have been feeling these same movements the last week or so. I actually got it on video. They too were in the same place as my babies back and it looked like breathing, definitely not hiccups. Thanks for sharing your story because it’s brought peace to my mind.

  17. That is SO cool! I’ve been experiencing this myself and thought “no, there’s no way that’s it”…especially since ALL the other posts everywhere else I read said it’s not possible. It’s the neatest thing. Some people say “you know they get hiccups”…I just want to laugh at them sometimes. LOL
    This is my fourth child so it’s not like I don’t know what “normal” things happen in the womb. I’ve gained less weight with this pregnancy than with my last two and I think because of that I’ve been able to feel and see MUCH more this time around.
    Thanks so much for sharing! It’s nice to know I’m not crazy!! :)

  18. I have just this second started feeling what feels like my baby is breathing inside my belly, my partner also felt it as I quickly called him over to feel it an see! As I’m a right worrier I wasn’t sure what it was or why my baby was doing this I said to my partner it feels as if she’s breathing but there’s no air in my tummy for her to breath so was freaking out at what it was then I found this blog and my mind has been put at rest :-) as I didn’t even know babys inside the womb practice breathing let alone mothers to be can feel it happening! I to am skinny with just a baby bump so that’s probably why I can feel her! It was freaking me out at first but now I know that its probably just her practising breathing all i can say is what an amazing experience :-) I am 36 6 days pregnant an counting down the days until I meet my baby girl!! Also just wondering does or has any of you heard a clicking / popping sound come from your belly whilst baby moves? As I have been experiencing this for quiet some time now and noone seems to know what it is have spoke to other women who have experienced this and think it could be babys bones or joints clicking because If I click my fingers under water it sounds exactly the same! :-) xx

    • That is a neat, Carrie! I do not know anything about the clicking/popping sound? That is interesting. I imagine your baby is here earthside by now–I’ll bet she’s wonderful :)

      • The clicking or popping sound I hear and feel it too. I looked all over the web and the best answer I found was that their little joints are popping (which is okay), and because they live inside a watery home the sound and feeling intensifies. What can be a teeny pop actually seems to us as a big sound.

  19. Oh my gosh I am so thankful I saw this! I am a FTM 31 weeks preg; and just tonight this started happening; all I could describe it as was that she was “breathing” hard;My sister told me she had never felt that with her two kids so I was like hmmm… I was getting worried but this post describes exactly what I am feeling!

  20. I cannot begin to tell you how relieved I am to find this post. I am 36 weeks today and have noticed the exact same thing in the last 48 hours. I called the midwives and they have calked me in but I don’t want to go as I feel thus us what I am seeing. Like you, I was quite thin before my pregnancy, 7.5 stone. My baby boy feels v strong and moves frequently. He also has bouts of hiccups and so I can tell the difference between a hiccup and thus fast rhythmic pulsing I can see in my stomach when his back is hard against my tum. I didn’t know they could practice breathing but that was my first instinct about what I am seeing, but because this is not mentioned anywhere I assumed I could see his pulse due thr the fact that I am slim normally. I also have hypermobility syndrome which means I have very stretchy skin with more collagen and this is exasibated by pregnancy. I am interested to know if you are naturally very flexible? I can feel him moving now and the midwives have said it’s lack of movement that signifies distress so I’m not going to panic. I have a scan in 3 days so that should tell if there is a problem. I can’t tell you enough how reassuring your post has been!
    I live the photo too. I guess being a v sensitive type I’ve noticed this rhythmic pulsing. It’s not continuous just when baba is right up against my belly. I hope this is all it is. Instinct tells me it is!
    Thank you x

    • I’m so glad it was helpful to you! I’m fascinated by how many women find this post–obviously, feeling the baby practice breathing isn’t as rare as all that! I have certainly NEVER seen it in any pregnancy book (and I have many, many of those!). I am pretty flexible, but not extremely so. Enjoy your baby boy!

      • I also have hypermobility syndrome, am NOT thin (was 220lbs,. 5’6 when got pregnant last time) and felt the practice breathing. Baby is now a very health (and 90% for height!) 6mo sleeping in my lap as I type. He went 10 days postdates and was 9lbs and was my quickest birth once transition finally hit (a month and a half of prodromal/’practice” labor), 3rd born. The belly pulsing was visible with him too, I tried to video it but I don’t think you can see it on the video well. I videoed him at a few days old sleeping curls up and his butt was pulsing at exactly the same rhythm, which is a little like hyperventilating.

      • I’d never heard of hypermobility until these comments (I think my little sister might possibly have it!). We used to watch my first baby breathe after he was born and marvel at how familiar it was to see that little rise and fall, only this time on the outside :)

  21. Ps I’m awfully sorry about the terrible spelling and diction in my post! I’m flat on the couch typing from my iPhone and the spellcheck has ruined my flow and made me look utterly stupid!
    Great comments too, v reassuring x

  22. i too am very thin; weighing in at 115 pounds at 33 weeks. I have a very small frame and the other night; i could feel a rhythmic motion where his chest normally sat in my ultrasounds. It was very different from the hiccups; which he gets multiple times a day. As soon as i noticed this i asked my mother; but she had never had a sensation like that seeing as i was only a 2 pound baby and she didnt feel my movements much. It seemed like a silly question to ask my doctor incase it wasnt possible to feel the breathing. its nice to know that others have felt it too.

  23. As many have already said, thanks so much for this post! I am 36 weeks 5 days (due on christmas day!!) and just experienced this last night. I too am very thin and all belly! It was definitely an amazing sensation to experience and feel very lucky to have been able to! Was a new level of bonding with my little girl:) makes me that much more excited to meet her! Also a good feeling knowing that I’m not the only one out there, so I’m not in fact crazy;) My daughter also gets the hiccups a lot too as many of you have mentioned.. maybe a connection with that? Just a thought.. Anyway, thanks again for sharing your experiences ladies!!

    • My baby girl always gets the hiccups after this breathing movement!
      I’m quite a sensitive person with hypermobility syndrome, I think that’s why i feel everything happening in my belly. It’s nice to have such a strong contact with the baby even before she is born. When I place my hand on my belly, she pushes her back into it so I can tickle her.
      It’s cute!

  24. I have been sitting here freaking out with my mother and husband and they both said it looks just like breathing! of course naturally i flipped out because i have never heard of it so i googled it and found this blog. thank you so much for posting I feel so much better! I am NOT thin by any means but she is supposed to be a big baby! :) I am also 36 weeks, this seems to be when most of you notice it also.

    • I’m glad it helped! Based on reading other comments, I think the remark from the doctor about thinness was probably incorrect. I know that I definitely weigh a lot more during my current pregnancy than I did back when and I still feel my new baby practice-breathing (started at about 31 weeks).

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  26. Hi there,

    I am so glad to have found your post, because i have the exact same experience going on (in terms of being able to see and feel the breathing). I have not discussed it with my OB yet (seeing her for our next checkup tomorrow) but when we saw the perinatologist two weeks ago, it was quite clear on the ultrasound that our little guy was practice breathing. And it was steady, as you mentioned – so steady and constant that the ultrasound tech was frustrated because she could not get him to hold still for an abdominal measurement LOL. The perinatologist told us that it’s quite a good sign of health, because that reflex (the practice breathing) actually stops before any other reflexes or movements decline, if there is any distress to the baby. So he said it’s a very good sign. I have since been able to see and feel the breathing often, I think because like you I am relatively thin and our baby is already huge (he was 7 pounds at 34 weeks and 5 days!). He often positions himself with his back to one side or the other and it’s pretty easy to see and feel the breathing. So I’m glad someone else had this experience!

  27. Thank you so much for posting this! I am experiencing the same thing! As a nurse who focused on OB/maternity while in nursing school, I was absolutely positive that that was what was going on. It’s very rhythmic, and you can completely see it as my belly rises and falls at the pace that a baby breathes at. My question for you is: did your baby come early? I just wonder if there’s any correlation with such strong practice breathing and earlier birth… maybe she’s ready to come early! That would be great because I still have 4 more weeks, and I’m not sure I’ll survive those! HAHA! Thanks again for sharing your experience! :)

    • All three of my babies have practice breathed–first and last did it the most, the second I only felt breathe a couple of times–and all were born very close to their due dates. Two days before, on the date, and three days before. I expect your baby will come close to her date as well! Hang in there and enjoy the last few weeks. It is fun after they are born and you see them breathing while they’re sleeping and it looks SO familiar! :) Best wishes for a beautiful birth and a wonderful baby!

    • I *think* my first did some practice breathing, he was born the day after his due date. My 2nd I didn’t really feel do practice breathing (he wasn’t really a mover at all which freaked me out a bit since my first was and is a perpetual motion machine), he was born close to the “official” due date but I did not agree with that due date (my cycle are irregular, I had been testing for ovulation and think he was concieved 10 days later than the LMP one indicated, I swear the ultrasound tech just matched size to dates as best she could in my 1st trimester ultrasound, he didn’t have fingers yet but she was placing him at gestational age that should have had clear fingers so I still think she was a week off & he was also my lightest by half a pound). My 3rd did a LOT of practice breathing and hiccups, he went 10 days postdates (and I agreed with that due date since it matched my ovulation testing, and he was also my largest at 9lbs, and easiest to birth once things finally got rolling! less than 4 hours of really active labor, didn’t realize my body was pushing until he crowned and he was fully born a minute later, no tear or anything but then again it was a water birth)

  28. Hi there,

    I feel so reassured after reading this post thank you!!

    Im currently 34 weeks + 3, first pregnancy, also have a slim frame with a small neat bump.
    Baby has been doing these movements for a good couple of weeks now. Very gentle and rhythmic, can vary in time.

    I’ve been becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of information regarding these movements and with people who can not relate and assume they are hiccups (which baby gets around 3 to 4 times a day so i definitely know the difference).

    I naturally put these movements down to either her sucking her thumb or practice breathing… Now i know I’m not going crazy!! :D

  29. Thanks for posting this! This is my 4th pregnancy and I’ve never experienced this until now. I called my doctor and he seemed to think I was crazy. Anyway, I do have one question. How fast is the practice breathing. It seems so fast to me, like a dog panting.

  30. I am about 35.5 weeks along in my first pregnancy and i was sitting at my moms today and my grandmother who was sitting beside me claimed she could feel this rhythmic pulsing and naturally i thought she was crazy..but if u knew my gramma u would think the same…
    so then later on in the evening i could see right near my bellybutton, my belly rising and falling and it wasnt in time with my breathing or my pulse and it was rhythmic. and so i assumed that maybe baby was breathing…or practicing breathing…and i looked it up and found this blog…im glad to see im not abnormal and its a sign of a healthy baby. i already knew my baby was healthy but its always awesome to be reassured every now and then

  31. Just wanted to add that I am a plus sized – first time mom. I’ve only gained 18lbs with this pregnancy and my Dr. says my weight gain is all baby related and I’ve done really well, but since around 32 weeks, I SEE my baby practice breathing and right now, at 37 weeks, I still see the pulsing almost every single day. I don’t always FEEL it, but I can definitely SEE it. At first, I too thought she was having seizures (thank God she’s not), but I know that it is just her practice breathing. I have an anterior placenta but somehow, I’m still able to see it. She is also head down so I knew that the breathing could not be from her mouth as in I’m seeing her mouth move, but I just read that I’m seeing the movements as her back is pressed against me. Interesting, eh?

    Just wanted to add my experience for the ladies who may come across this blog and think that because they are not skinny, then they are not experiencing their baby’s practice breathing. Plus Sized ladies can experience the same thing too!

    Have a blessed day!

    • I think people assuming it is only possible to feel if you’re skinny (like the consulting doctor told mine in my own example), is like people thinking that the mother’s weight has an impact on feeling fetal movement early too. Many people say/write/believe that thinner mothers feel baby’s kicks earlier than “fluffier” mothers, but I’ve read enough women’s stories to know this is completely untrue–mother’s weight doesn’t “impair” her ability to feel her own baby (it might stop someone else from feeling/palpating as easily, but mother’s sensations come from the inside, not externally),

      Congratulations on your pregnancy!

  32. Yahoo haha I saw this last night, my friend and I were like what the heck is she doing? I even asked baby girl what are you Doing in there? I wandered is she sucking her thumb really hard?! Or what?! I’m 34 weeks tomorrow and also had steroid injections to help mature her lungs as I have a planned c section at 37.5 weeks and also just incase she came earlier. It lasted prolly about 5 min or so just a steady rhythmic ( as people up higher said like a dog panting in speed) she has hiccups often and I KNOW the difference as we all do lol. Then as I laid in bed wondering what she was doing it hit me! Maybe she was breathing! So o looked it up and here I am glad I know what it was because yes as others said it’s a bit scary cuz it’s diffrent then other movements. You breath my baby girl!!! Thank you!

  33. I am 38 weeks tomorrow and baby has been doing this for the last hour now, first time I have noticed this, I knew it wasn’t hiccups as so much more gentler and quicker.

    Many thanks for writing this blog

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  35. Yes thank you for writting this blog I started to feel this a few hours ago and was trying to find something about it but there isn’t much out there. But now I am sure that is what I was feeling and seeing!

  36. This just happened to me :) thankyou for all your posts as its proved me and my husband are not going mad lol.I googled pulsating baby movements at 38 weeks and found this thread x

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  39. I’ve been feeling this “pulsating” for the last two weeks or so (I’m 36 weeks pregnant tomorrow). At first I thought it was the baby “bouncing” or “dancing” in response to music (the first time I noticed I was listening to music), but then after seeing baby breathe on ultrasound last week (and realizing how much faster she breathes than I thought she would) I began to suspect that I might actually be feeling her breathe. I’m glad to know I’m not totally crazy! My husband has felt the movements, too–it’s pretty amazing.

    I’m fairly skinny (I was 5’10 and 135 pounds pre-pregnancy), but I’ve gained 30 pounds already, so it’s not like I’m all baby or anything! But I’ve felt almost everything this pregnancy. I first felt the baby move at 14 weeks, and now I feel her hiccoughing 3-4 times a day! Not to mention all the kicking and rolling. My belly has a life of its own these days, haha.

    • I felt my first baby move at 14 weeks too! I felt all of them early and felt all of them breathe, though the first (who this post is about) and the third were the most distinct. The second I only felt breathing a couple of times. With the third, it was a nightly experience beginning at about 33 weeks.

      Congratulations on your pregnancy and best wishes for a beautiful birth in the next couple of weeks!

  40. Wow, thanks for this information! I am 31 weeks with my 4th pregnancy and this is the first time I ever felt this movement. My baby girl is measuring 2 weeks ahead, except her head is measuring at 31 weeks. Felt the movement for the 2nd day in a row, and thought I was going insane. I wasn’t too concern, but I knew it was hiccups. It is an awesome feeling because it is different than the annoying hiccups. Definitely encouraging to hear that babies are usually healthy when they do this.

  41. Im soooo happy i found this! im 36 weeks and have also been feeling this! I was worried somthing was wrong, i feel so relieved after seeing im not the only one! :)

  42. Your post came up when I googled ‘fast rhythmic pulsing baby.’ I was afraid my baby might be having some sort of seizure when this happens. I can actually see where his back is, rising and falling very quickly like someone out of breath.
    Thanks for posting this!

  43. I just did a google search because I have felt that with both of my girls (just felt it with #2 right now). I am convinced that’s what I’m feeling, too. How cool that you had it confirmed!

  44. Pingback: Looks like baby is breathing? - Pregnancy - Third Trimester Forum

  45. I have the same thing , i see this blog is a little old but ,i describe it as a panting feeling babys back ive felt it for some time now, im 39 weeks now , That and the hiccups down in the nether’s i sit n wonderd sometimes if it was a mad twitch or spasim going on but hiccups it is lol imma have a very vocal daughter apperently.

    • I experienced the same breathing movements during my more recent pregnancy (my baby girl was born in January 2011). So, while the experiences described in the post are “old” the topic and the responses that follow are constantly being added to and are very current! Thanks for commenting and sharing your experiences. I’ll be interested to see if your baby comes out screaming as well! Congratulations on your upcoming baby. I hope you have a beautiful birth!

  46. Ditto re thanks so much. A very reassuring blog and amazing all the women experiencing this same thing which is meant to be rare and so many professionals havent heard of?! I am off to get a good nights sleep now thanks to your blog :)

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  48. wow! thanks for posting this! I’m 34 weeks (thin and healthy) and just noticed this pulsing where the babies back was and pretty much all you mentioned. I found it really strange and I started looking around online. Low and behold I found your hilarious and helpful article. Very reassuring and amazing! Thank you.

  49. hello this exact same thing happened to me in my first pregnancy – I could definitely see the same movements you describe, quite different to hiccups. my midwife had not seen it before either!

  50. I wanted to completely THANK YOU for writing this. I could not figure out what I was feeling and NOONE could tell me. They kept telling me that I was confusing the feeling with hiccups but i KNEW it was NOT hiccups. I didn’t feel this during my first pregnancy, probably because my baby never grew to be more than 5 lbs but this daughter is big, I was (key word WAS because I’ve gained 50lbs lol) small and in shape as well. I thought I was feeling my baby’s pulse but feeling my baby’s breathing is along the same lines and makes me feel much better. I can see it very softly, if I’m REALLY still and looking, but I can DEFINITELY feel it. Anyways, thank you for giving my motherly instincts confirmation lol

    • You’re welcome! Thank you for commenting. This is one of the top posts on my blog, which tells me that SO MANY women experience this and yet it doesn’t appear in any pregnancy books or, apparently, in the mind of many HCPs. Congratulations on your upcoming baby and best wishes for a beautiful birth!

  51. I have been experiencing this, too, at 35 weeks. I caught it on video…

    [video src="http://s294.photobucket.com/albums/mm110/Emilyoemily/?action=view&current=MVI_0639.mp4" /]

  52. Love the video! That is exactly what it looks like. This is my third baby and I never felt it with the other two, so it kind of worried me. I’m almost 38 weeks.

  53. I looked this up right after experiencing this. The same exact thing you felt. I thought it might be crazy but I watched my stomach right where my daughter’s back is and there was a constant rise and fall. It’s so awesome to be able to feel these types of things! I’m always worried that my little girl might not be developing as healthy as she should be. I’m glad to know that I’m not crazy and that this is normal!

  54. Im 36 weeks and can definitely feel and see baby breathing. This is my fourth and I don’t remember it with the other three. However, I am surprised because I am significantly overweight (5’6″ and size 22) although I have not gained any weight in the pregnancy so far.

    • I’ve noticed from all the responses that it seems like being thin might make it easier to see from the outside, but I don’t think it has a relationship to whether you’re able to feel the movements or not. Thanks for commenting and congratulations on your pregnancy! Best wishes for a beautiful birth!

  55. I am in 36 weeks I feel and see the breathing also! it is so cute! I love that feeling! I didn’t tell that my doctor yet, but next week appointment I will mention that and I am very curious what is gonna be her reaction! But definitely it is a lovely experience!!!! Good luck to everybody and Happy Holiday!!!!

  56. Hi my name is gaby(:
    Time posted.02:53.am
    Hi i just experience this just a few minutes ago and right when i thought i felted breathing i went to google right away , to see if its possible i am small i only gained 10pounds during my pregnancy and i am currently 30weeks in a couple days!..and i weigh 110 , i was just looking at my belly just being amazed thinking how im a mother….my first as well :) and i did notice when i put my hand were my baby was i felted breathing????and i was thinking *is it possible?* then i lift my hand and i notice as well i could see it, i was like whoa?? Cant be thanks for your blog it really helped me with what i felted and seen so i know i did see what i saw (:
    Due.Feb16 thanks

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  58. Wow!
    I’m 33 weeks now, and I started feeling this at 32 weeks and it really scared me. This is my first baby and I worry about everything. I thought my baby could be struggling in there, maybe a cord problem, or having a seizure… But for some reason nobody seems to know about this stuff but it’s pretty common? Another unknown thing that I have experienced in my pregnancy (one woman mentioned it in a comment in this thread) is the clicking/snapping noise in your belly. It happens when I’m sitting still and the baby is moving around.
    Just saying thanks for all these posts, and the woman who posted the video, that’s what i’ve been seeing. I am still deep down wondering what it really could be and hoping everything is ok.
    And it’s definitely not hiccups. I hate when most websites I’ve found tonight say that they are probably just hiccuping.

    • Congratulations on your pregnancy! I had no idea how common this apparently was until I shared my experience in this post and then had so many women comment on with their own similar experiences! I’ve yet to read a pregnancy book or website that even mentions the possibility. I’d like to collect more information and write an article about it!

      Anyway, I share your frustration with people assuming its hiccups. I KNOW what hiccups are and the breathing movements are definitely something different! My original post was written about my first baby, but all three of my babies have done this–same manner, same timeframe. With my last baby, I looked forward to it and waited for it to start. Sure enough, it did, and she practiced every night pretty predictably until she was born!

      Best wishes for a beautiful birth!

  59. Pingback: Can anyone else feel their baby breathing? - BabyandBump

  60. I am pregnant with my first and I am experiencing baby’s amazing breathing movements as well. So wonderful to know that they are practicing and getting ready for the big day! Thank you for sharing your posts everyone

  61. I am having baby number 3 and have also had this I was starting to be concerned about this as I never had this b4 my sister inlaw felt my baby doing this and could not belive it as she also has has two babys and never felt this…..thanks for your information was very helpful and uplifting to know I am not crazy and have nothing to be concerned about…..

  62. Thanks for sharing this story – at 34 or 35 weeks I started to notice this ‘breathing like’ motion in my belly – and actually mentioned to my hubby that maybe it was baby practicing breathing. He shrugged his shoulders and I tried to ignore it and not be concerned that it could be something else..but now I’m quite convinced thats what it is! I see it a few times a day now, and I’ll just enjoy it from here on out!

  63. So glad I found this! I’m 39 weeks with baby number six and was lying here feeling the hiccups, but could feel a rocking between the hics…looked at my belly in a snug, thin shirt and could totally see breathing motions where baby’s back is! Like, hiccup…pant, pant, pant….hiccup! Crazy! Never felt this before.

  64. I am 36 weeks today, and healthy- definitely a plus size girl, put on about 30 pounds and I have felt the same breathing.. I have felt a lot all along- the midwife thinks its because the placenta is posterior- so I get to see all the fireworks and such up front..

  65. Such a relief to see all these comments about women experiencing what I am. That “pulsing” made me so nervous everytime it happened. I am 35 weeks and was going to call my Dr to inquire about it! I didn’t feel it with my first but this baby boy has done it several times the past week or so, mainly at night when I’m laying still. I will still mention it to my dr next week but it did put me a little more at ease to read your post and everyone else’s! Thanks for sharing.

  66. I have been feeling this movement for the last couple of weeks as well (I’m 35 weeks) and thought it felt like breathing, but my sister (who’s a nurse) thought they didn’t breath in the womb. But they do practice! It’s the coolest feeling! It helps me envision his little belly rising and falling. I love it! I’m glad you got confirmation from an ultrasound that it is in fact breathing practice. He’s also gotten the hiccups 13X in the last 9 days!! I’m hoping these are all good signs :)

    • It is such a cool experience! I wonder if yours will come out crying too with all this practice! Congratulations on your upcoming baby and best wishes for a beautiful, healthy birth :)

  67. I feel this all the time …and im always like it feels like the baby is breathing and everyone says they cant breathe like that…it gets to the point like u experienced the movements when it really moves like she is breathing i love it!!!!

  68. Wow, lots of people seem to have experienced this too! Makes me feel so glad that I wasn’t just making it up in my head that it was her practicing breathing! I am currently 29 weeks and just felt and saw this for the first time. I am very small and very thin as well. Does it always happen again? My partner missed it, and can’t wait to see it!

    • My experience was that it became very predictable with both my first and last babies–I’d feel them breathe every night before bed (and my husband could feel it too) and also other times during the day. With my second baby it was much more unpredictable/uncommon. It is a pretty neat experience. Enjoy! :)

  69. Pingback: Sharing Stories « Talk Birth

  70. Felt this sensation for about two weeks now im 37 weeks. I was wondering what the movement was myself. it was on the my right side where the babys back is. I can see it move up and down rythmicly especially today while i was reading my book the book was on my belly. lol ( my husband saw it too). i feel it all the time. I enjoyed reading your story. and felt relieved when i found out that the baby is practicing breathing.

  71. The first time I experienced my little boy practice breathing was at 32 weeks, but I didn’t know exactly what it was at the time. I then had a growth ultrasound at 33 weeks and my OB said he was doing it during the ultrasound. I am now 37 weeks and feel it a majority of the day. If he’s still for quite sometime I can just put my hand where his back is and its pretty much guaranteed I will feel him breathing. It’s so neat! I wanted to add though that a person doesn’t have to be skinny/fit to experience it. I was 220 pre-pregnancy and definitely not fit at all, but I have no problem seeing or feeling him breathing. I’m hoping its a good sign his lungs will be fully developed because I have pregnancy induced hypertension and will be delivering before 39 weeks!

  72. Hi I’m 38 weeks as well.and.I’ve noticed.the. same thing! I thought I was going.crazy but I’m glad there’s someone going through the same thing as me…especially since I haven’t been able to find any info online. Thanks so much for your post.

  73. Pingback: Light rhythmic pulses anyone? | Health Makes Productivity

  74. Thank you!!! Just skimming through comments, I can see I am not nearly the first person your blog reassured. I too am tall and thin, only gaining 25 lbs at 35 weeks with twins. I just noticed this breathing for the first time and spent 20 minutes on the phone with the emergent nurse, scared that baby A was in distress. I kept saying, its like I can see him breathing but the nurse never commented that it was possible. Even though he tried to reassure me any movement was good I was worried. So right after I hung up I found your blog. Now I know I’m not crazy, nor alone, nor is the baby in trouble. Thanks again. Whatever did worry wort mom’s do before blogs?

  75. Pingback: CAPPA Re-Cap | Talk Birth

  76. i feel it too lol and i just knew it was him breathing, i dont know how i thought about it but i was saying it couldnt be anything else lol its fun…u can see it too and cuz m small it shows, m due oct 18 hope he comes out screamin too lol

  77. Im glad i found this! My husband and I have had a rough go with this baby, she has been anything but easy and it took us two years to get her. Tonight she is positioned all to one side of my belly and i was like “hon, i think i can see her breathing…” I’m 32 weeks, im not skinny by any means…it makes me feel good, like she is doing good in there cause there is a good chance she will come early. Hopefully she’s workin those little lungs out!

    • I’m glad it helped! I hope she stays put until full-term, but it sounds like she’s getting good practice in just in case :) Best wishes for a beautiful birth! And, congratulations! Sounds like it has been a long journey.

  78. Pingback: 2012 blog year in review | Talk Birth

  79. People thought I was crazy that I could actually see/feel my baby practice breathing! I am so glad I am not alone. I guess we are the lucky few. :)

  80. I googled this and found your blog I know the doctors dissmiss a lot of things to keep us calm that’s why I hadn’t brought it up this is my second baby and I’m 33weeks I have been feeling this for a while and I just shared with my husband and that’s it. Didn’t want to stress about everything like I did my first and got completely sick until I gave birth. But this has been a breeze, lol except the weight gain. I’m measuring 38 weeks already and this load is heavy but I am heathy and fine so no complaints thanks again!!!

  81. I felt this just now- actually saw it. I know what hiccups and this is shallow and rhythmic. Very cool- I was told by my sister in law it was movement. I know the difference- this little guy is a mover. This was so different and very, very cool. :-)

  82. I am 35 weeks and this will be our third daughter. I had never heard of babies breathing while in the womb and I was surprised during an ultrasound this morning when my doctor said, “look she’s breathing, that’s a good sign.” Now I am able to feel and see her breathing through my belly because I know what to look/feel for, before i assumed it was a blood vessel or mild hiccups. It’s so amazing and makes us even more excited to meet her. It’s very reassuring to know that her lungs are developing as they should. Thank you for your blog, there is very little information about this.

  83. I’m actually experiencing this right now with my mine! I’m 40 weeks 2 days. I felt it before but I didn’t think much of it. It’s very consistant at the moment so I was curious. I actually thought of seizures but thought it felt like he was breathingZ

    I actually just did a work out, trying to get the little booger out. And when I stopped and laid down, he was doing this. Amazing.

  84. Hello ladies i have been reading over your post and I am not sure I will even get a reply back to this but I am freaking out inside thinking that maybe my son is not just practice breathing but actually having seizures. Today his movemtns were pretty quick and I could feel and see them on both side of my belly he is hed down and this was confirmed 4 days ago. I do not know what to do. I watched yout tube videos of infant seizures and they are similiar to his movements but when I tell my doctor what I am feeling he acts like I am crazy. Any thought’s. Thank you so much for reading.

    • I can’t say with 100% certainty, but I really would expect this is practice breathing that you’re feeling too. My understanding is that seizures would be more erratic/unpredictable. If you can have an ultrasound while the baby is doing it, they’ll be able to see. While some people might feel practice breathing as more jerky or kind of like “gasping” (my second baby was more like this), it really is kind of like a cat under a blanket–the movements are gentle, rhythmic, and pulsing. It is a rapid movement though, like panting almost.

      One way to help you feel confident that it is practice breathing is to pay attention to whether it happens at the same time(s) each day. There’s usually a pattern to it. And, another way to tell with almost total accuracy is to notice if the baby gets hiccups shortly after and “episode.” A lot of babies will practice breathe and then get hiccups from their practice :)

      Hope this sets your mind at ease a little! Best wishes and congratulations! I wish you a beautiful birth and a gorgeous, healthy baby who has had a lot of practice with breathing! :)

      • Oh wow thatnk you so much you have really helped me to not be so freaked out he does do it at almost the same time everyday in the afternoon time and he does usually gets the hicsups! I was so sad and thank you so much I feel so so so much better! He has done it a few times at night but not really you are amazing!

  85. I guess the thing that freaked me out the most was the fact I could for the first time feel it on my left and right side so odd :)

    • I’m so glad you’re relieved! I would expect that the reason you could feel it on both sides was probably because he moved around so that his back is lined up with your belly (ie his back to your front), instead of lying on one side or the other.

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  87. I am 34 weeks with my first baby and have been feeling this exact thing over the last few weeks and found this after googling it! I was slightly concerned it was seizures or something bad, but am now very relieved after reading this. It really does feel like breathing but then I didn’t think that was possible!
    My belly was pulsating about 20 minutes ago, and now the baby has the hiccups like you mentioned in a much earlier comment, so it must be the practise breathing!
    Makes me feel very connected and happy now.
    Thankyou for this post.

  88. Wow! Thank you so much! I am 33 weeks and I have been feeling this for about 5 or more weeks. It is my second pregnancy. With my first I gained 80lbs, with this pregnancy I have gained 30lbs; however, I can tell that it is mostly from my butt down ;) My girl gets hiccups frequently, but I started noticing in her back-area, it was almost like she was panting… It is reassuring to read this post!

  89. Omg i just felt this for the first time and googled it straight away to find this! Ive never herd of this happening. Was amazing! All of u are describing what i felt,the only difference is the im not as slim as all of u r making out,i was 140lbs before i fell pregnant,im just over 34weeks and gained 28lbs! Wouldnt call that small in anyway,my bumps huge!!! Amazing experience tho! Xxx

  90. I loved reading this! I only felt this yesterday. I knew babies practiced breathing in there but I’d never seen or felt it before, on this pregnancy or the last. I was sitting in work and happened to be looking at my belly. I saw this rhythmic up and down movement at the top of my bump (baby is breech) and to the left side. I just knew immediately what I was looking at and called 2 colleagues to see it. No mistaking what it was and my colleagues were amazed. I hope it means I’ll go into relatively on timeof not before. I’m not skinny, I’m all woman and not exactly expecting a big baby either – my boy was 7lbs 15oz even though they told me he’d be big. I carry big but that’s it.

  91. so glad i found this , was getting really freaked out by it , as i lie here now he has the hiccups after just practising:)

  92. I go to a high risk pregancy Dr. & a cardiologist every week for an ultra sound of my daughter’s heart. Yesterday while the Dr himself was doing the US he said several times look she is breathing. Of course it made it very difficult to look at her heart (which was the reason I was there) but sure enough for at least 10 straight minutes she practiced. Neither Dr. acted suprised but now that I am looking it up I am suprised how uncommon it seems!

  93. Thanks so so much for sharing. I was begining to worry as ive been feeling and seeing this for a few days now. But instead of worried I feel even more proud of him. Thanks again.

  94. Thanks so much for sharing this! I’m 35 weeks pregnant and have been feeling this occasional pulsing for a few weeks or so now. It’s exactly as you described in your blog. Baby is head down, but I felt the pulsing right under my ribs. I just had another round of it, googled possible causes, and found your blog. Just as I finished reading it – baby started hiccuping. I also fit the physical criteria the doctor described – thin and healthy. :) So cool to feel her practice breathing!

  95. i felt and saw this happening with my baby a couple of times. my boyfriend was able to see it also. it was very late in my pregnancy and right where his back was, like you said. at first i thought it was too fast, but then i remembered that newborns usually breathe quickly. mothers always know!
    i love that i got to experience this because, in hindsight, i was able to know the moment he passed away. (i won’t go into the details of it. no need to alarm mamas for no reason.) i just knew that it was his last breaths and that he woke me up to say goodbye. a very sad but special moment for sure.

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