8 Tips To Reduce Rib Pain During Pregnancy

Rib Pain

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Pregnancy changes your body in ways you have not experienced before. Some changes can pose a threat to the baby while some can be worrisome for a while.

One such worrisome issue is rib pain, which materializes during the third trimester. While the pain does not have any side effects, the location of the pain could make you anxious.

But there is no reason to worry. MomJunction tells you all about rib pain during pregnancy, its causes, and management.

How Does Pregnancy Rib Pain Feel Like?

Pregnancy rib pain feels like your ribs are displaced or diverged. Though nothing of this sort happens, the region feels tender to touch, and you will experience pain when sitting, slouching or bending forward.

You will also experience pain while coughing, breathing deeply, laughing or sneezing. The pain can appear at different times, and the intensity also varies from tolerable to unbearable.

Usually, sore ribs do not cause any harm to the mother or the fetus. The pain and discomfort will disappear automatically after the baby’s birth.

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When Do You Feel The Rib Pain During Pregnancy?

In the last few weeks of pregnancy, when the baby is almost ready, you may feel like there is no room left in the upper abdomen. As the uterus grows and compresses the internal organs, you will experience pain in the ribs.

The pain is usually felt at the end of the second trimester and throughout the third trimester until the baby starts to descend into the pelvic region towards the due date (1).

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When Is Rib Pain Dangerous?

Rib pain can be dangerous if you have not paid attention to your health before pregnancy. Any chronic problems which were there before pregnancy can worsen now.

  • Pain under the right rib can be a sign of hepatological disorders (that include liver disease, gallbladder inflammation, and right-sided pneumonia).
  • Pain arising on the left rib can be a sign of ulcers, gastritis, gastrointestinal tract disorders, left-sided pneumonia and diaphragmatic hernia.

There could be other reasons for rib pain during pregnancy.

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What Causes Rib Pain During Pregnancy?

Here is why you may experience pain in the ribs when you are pregnant.

  1. The growing baby and uterus: As the baby grows, the uterus expands, taking more room in the womb. It comes to a stage where all the organs are pushed towards the ribs, building pressure in the muscles and making breathing difficult (1). Those with bigger babies and shorter waists are highly prone to rib fractures during pregnancy.
  1. The baby’s movements and intrauterine position: The position and movement of the baby will put constant pressure on the ribs, creating discomfort and pain in the ribs. The frequency of the movements increases each day, getting harder and stronger (2). Also, the breech position of the fetus will put additional pressure on the rib cage, causing pain (3).
  1. Increasing breast size: As the breasts grow, their increasing weight puts more pressure on the rib cage and lower back. This not only alters your posture but also draws your shoulder down, causing pain in the ribs and back (4).
  1. Urinary tract infections: Rib pain is one of the side effects of UTI. As the urinary infection spreads towards the kidneys, it causes a burning sensation and increases the frequency of urination, causing pain and discomfort in the ribs (5).
  1. Hormonal changes: The relaxin and progesterone hormones affect all the muscles, ligaments and joints of the pelvic region and spine. It, therefore, leads to a rib cage and back pain (6).

Some other reasons for rib pain during pregnancy could be:

  • Traumas and injuries that lead to broken or cracked ribs
  • Spinal disc herniation, which is also referred to as a slipped disc
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteochondrosis, a condition that affects the progression of bone growth
  • Tietze’s disease, a musculoskeletal disorder
  • Myalgia or muscle pain
  • Malignant formation in the thorax
  • Various pains in the heart caused by myocardial infarction and ischemia

Regardless of what is causing it, rib pain should not be ignored. Talk to your doctor to be sure it is harmless.

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When To Call The Doctor?

You could experience rib pain usually in the later stages of pregnancy. Contact your doctor immediately if the following symptoms accompany the pain:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Floaters in eyes

Rib pain during pregnancy usually disappears after the uterus drops in the last weeks of pregnancy. As you near the due date, the space in the abdomen region increases and the pressure under the ribs reduces.

In the meanwhile, you can follow a few tips to get some relief from the pain.

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What Can You Do To Help Relieve Rib Pain During Pregnancy?

Though there is no cure for this pain, you can take a few measures for temporary relief.

  1. Wear loose-fitting clothes: Avoid tight-fitting clothes as they add pressure and aggravate the rib pain. Wear loose clothing that is comfortable and easier to breathe in. Also, get a maternity bra or a nursing bra that can take the pressure off the rib cage.
  1. Lean back: Rib pain worsens when you lean forward. So, try to maintain your posture by leaning backward. This also relieves pressure from the heavy breasts. Stretching back expands the space in the belly and eases the strain on the muscles of the rib cage and lower back.
  1. Use pillows for support: Use pillows to prop yourself up beneath the bump to take off the strain from the rib muscles. It relieves most of the soreness and pressure from the body.
  1. Take short breaks: Do not remain in the same sitting or standing position for too long. Move around, take short walks or indulge in mild exercise.
  1. Get a massage: Ask your partner to massage on the sides and rib region to help relieve muscle stress and tension.
  1. Warm water bath: Taking a warm shower will soothe and relax the painful muscles. It provides short-term relief from rib soreness.
  1. Use support aids: There is a wide range of supportive aids such as rib braces, body pillows, maternity belts, lumbar seat pillows and belly bras to support the lower body. They also relieve rib cage pain.
  1. Exercise: Indulge in light exercises such as yoga and swimming.

In some cases, you may be able to prevent this pain to some extent. Find out how next.

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Can You Prevent Rib Pain During Pregnancy?

Yes, you will be able to prevent rib ache in some cases, by remaining active and performing mild exercises. Exercise prevents excess weight gain, which may otherwise contribute to rib pain.

You should also eat a well-balanced diet and follow a healthy lifestyle.

You may experience mild rib flares during pregnancy, no matter how careful you are. But if the pain is severe or sudden, you should check with the doctor. They will determine the cause and suggest the appropriate treatment. Do not take any pain medication without consulting your doctor, engage in extreme physical activity or lay pressure on the tummy.

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Have you experienced rib pain during pregnancy? Tell us how you dealt with it, in the comments section below.

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Rebecca Malachi

She is a Biotechnologist with a proficiency in areas of genetics, immunology, microbiology, bio-engineering, chemical engineering, medicine, pharmaceuticals to name a few. Her expertise in these fields has greatly assisted her in writing medical and life science articles. With 8+ years of work experience in writing for health and wellness, she is now a full-time contributor for Momjunction.com. She is passionate about giving research-based information to readers in need. Apart from writing, she is a foodie, loves travel, fond of gospel music and enjoys observing nature in silence. Know more about her at: linkedin.com/in/kothapalli-rebecca-35881628
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