Rib Pain During Pregnancy – All You Need to Know

Pregnancy brings with it a host of different physical sensations. You may experience everything from morning sickness to strange food cravings. When the baby starts to grow, it starts putting pressure on different parts of your body. Many women complain of back pain, hip pain and joint ache as the pregnancy progresses. When you enter the third trimester, you might start experiencing soreness in your rib cage area. Most of these symptoms can be relieved by correct posture, stretching and exercising regularly.

Read on to find out what pregnancy rib pain is, and how you can manage it.

Pregnancy Rib Pain

Most women experience symptoms of rib pain in the 26th week of pregnancy, but many others experience these rib pains during early pregnancy also.


There are several symptoms of rib pain during pregnancy. A few of them are:

  • Pain under the breasts: The pain is usually felt directly under the breasts, to the side of the baby’s position. You will notice that the pain is more intense while sitting, as this position compresses the uterus, forcing the foetus to put push against your abdomen.
  • Shortness of breath: This can result from the expanding uterus, which puts pressure on the rib cage and the diaphragm. You will find it tougher to breathe normally.
  • Shoulder ache: You might suffer from aches in the shoulders. This is also a side effect of the pressure on the diaphragm since the shoulders are connected by several nerves to the diaphragm.
  • Indigestion: There is limited space in your body before it begins to get congested. As the uterus begins to expand against the abdominal organs like the stomach and intestines, you might experience indigestion.

What Causes Rib Pain in Pregnant Women?

Rib pain is usually caused by the increase in body size during pregnancy. In addition, the foetus inside you is growing bigger and bigger. Below are the most common causes of rib cage pain during pregnancy.

  • Expanding uterus

The growth of the uterus is the most common cause of rib pain. As the baby gets larger, the muscles on the ribs are forced apart, creating a strain. This can cause anything from mild discomfort to shooting bolts of pain. In women with smaller hips or those carrying larger foetuses, the rib cage even faces the risk of fracture.

  • Increase in breast size

Pregnant women generally add around 2-4 kilos of weight in just their breasts! Your growing breasts cause a whole lot of agony, ranging from tired shoulders to an aching back. They also put pressure on the rib muscles.

  • Hormone changes

A pregnant woman’s body is a sea of floating hormones. While hormones are essential during this time, the drastic increase in the amount causes other unwanted changes. Progesterone, which is essential for uterine contractions, can soften the rib muscles and ligaments, making them prone to soreness. The jump in oestrogen levels can raise the chances of gallstones forming, which can occasionally become big enough to induce pain.

  • Stress

Although medically unquantifiable, stress can cause pains and aches all over the body. Pregnant women especially suffer from anxiety and tension; you have to make sure to keep calm. Try yoga or meditation to ease your mind and body.

Any Preventive Measures?

The baby is going to grow larger through the course of the pregnancy. This means that body aches cannot generally be avoided. However, there are some things you can do to prevent them from becoming unbearable.

  • Exercise

Staying active by involving yourself in fitness and yoga could keep your rib pains at bay. Since one of the more common causes of rib pain is weight gain, gaining only the recommended amount of weight according to your BMI (body mass index) will contribute to a more comfortable pregnancy.

  • Healthy diet 

Gallstones are worsened by the rise in oestrogen levels but are actually caused by an unbalanced diet. Reduce your fat intake to lower the risks.

  • Visiting a chiropractor

A chiropractor is a doctor who knows how to adjust the skeletal system of your body. Visiting one regularly will stop your bone structure from receiving undue stress during your pregnancy.

Remedies for Rib Pain in Pregnancy

We just mentioned a couple of preventative measures, but it will take more than that to stave off the dreaded pregnancy rib pain. Following are a few remedies to give you some pregnancy rib pain relief.

  • Posture

As you enter into the late stage of pregnancy, the added weight will induce a loss of coordination and balance. A drooping spine will only serve to worsen the pain in your ribs. Ensure you keep your body upright and lean back while sitting and walking, which prevents your breasts from generating muscular tension in your rib cage. Also try sleeping on both sides, especially the more painful side for some temporary relief.

  • Exercise balls

It will be beneficial to invest in one of these oversized exercise balls. Lie on the back against the ball and perform a few rolls. This will stretch your rib muscles and relieve the pain. Ensure you know the correct form for this exercise before doing it. Ask your doctor’s advice as well.

  • Compresses

Using a warm or cold compress against the sore parts of your abdomen will give you some much-needed comfort. This will gradually ease out the knots in your muscles. Taking a warm shower will also help.

  • Body support

Nothing is more important than supporting your body during your pregnancy. There are several supportive products available that both support your body and keep your baby safe. For example, nursing bras, maternity pillows, and lumbar support products allow for a good posture at all times. You can also use a special pregnancy belt to keep your belly from straining your ribcage.

  • Loose clothing

Many pregnant ladies continue to wear their usual clothing into their pregnancy. Try not to wear tight clothing that compresses your ribs. Loose clothing will also allow you to breathe more comfortably.

  • Massage

Massaging your body is a simple but effective means of getting some of that much-needed relief. Try out some simple massage techniques that you can find online or hire a masseuse skilled at dealing with pregnant clients.

When to Call the Doctor?

In most instances, rib pain is a natural outcome of your body changing during pregnancy. However, unbearable rib pains might have underlying causes which require immediate medical attention. A few of them are.

  • Pre-eclampsia

This is a condition only occurring during pregnancy. Its symptoms are extreme abdominal pain, excess protein in the urine and high blood pressure.

  • HELLP syndrome

The symptoms of HELLP include intense rib pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and headaches. You need to go to a doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms.

  • Budd-Chiari syndrome

This is a rare condition which makes blood clots develop in the veins that lead into the liver, causing liver damage. Although it is extremely rare, pregnancy tends to exacerbate the condition.

  • Liver cancer

There is some evidence that pregnancy can promote liver growth for women who either have liver cancer or are at high risk of liver cancer. The tumour that develops due to this might push the liver upwards, causing pain. Extreme pain under the right side of the rib cage might have to be checked out by the doctor.

Conclusion: Around the 36th week of your pregnancy, your baby will drop under the breastbone into the pelvic cavity to get ready for birth. This will provide you relief from your nagging rib aches. But until that happens, make sure you research and learn as much as you can about this problem so that you can prepare yourself for the risks. Pregnancy rib pain relief can be easily achieved. Please regularly visit your doctor for health check-ups, and ensure you inform them of any symptom that makes you feel uncomfortable. Remember, a healthy mother means a healthy baby.