Rib Pain in Pregnancy: Reasons, Signs & Treatment

Rib Pain During Pregnancy – All You Need to Know

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rima Sonpal (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
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When the baby begins growing during pregnancy, it starts putting pressure on different parts of a woman’s body. Many complain of back, hip and joint pain as the pregnancy progresses. In the second or third trimester, you may start experiencing soreness near the rib cage. Not just baby growing, it could also result from baby stretching and kicking near the ribs. The good news is- rib pain when pregnant can be relieved with correct posture, stretching, and exercising. The following post talks about rib pain during pregnancy in easy detail, how to manage it, and how not to let it discomfort you until delivery.

When Does Rib Pain Occur?

Most women experience rib pain in the 26th week of pregnancy; some may experience this pain during early pregnancy, too. But, if you think ribs hurt in the first trimester, then you are mistaken. The baby is too small in the first trimester to cause pressure on the rib. The pain can be experienced in the second and third trimesters as the baby continues to grow. Rib pain on the left side or the right side can happen either way.

Symptoms Accompanying Rib Pain During Pregnancy

The symptoms that may accompany rib pain during pregnancy are:

Rib Pain During Pregnancy

1. Pain in the Underside of Breasts

The pain originates directly under the breasts, to the side of the baby’s position. The pain will intensify while sitting.

2. Shortness of Breath

You may experience shortness of breath can result from the expanding uterus, which puts pressure on the rib cage and the diaphragm. You will find it tougher to breathe normally.

3. Shoulder Ache

You might suffer from aches in the shoulders. This is also a side effect of the pressure on the diaphragm since several nerves connect the shoulders to the diaphragm.

4. 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?

An increase in body size can cause rib pain when pregnant. Here are other common causes of rib pain during pregnancy:

1. Expanding Uterus

The growing uterus is the most common cause of rib pain. As the baby becomes bigger, the muscles on the ribs are forced apart, creating a strain. This can cause mild discomfort to sudden bolts of pain.

2. Position of the Baby

As the second trimester comes to an end, the foetus turns upside down so that its head faces towards the vaginal canal and its feet point toward the mother’s ribs. This puts pressure on the ribs. Arm and leg movements, especially kicks and stretches from the baby might hit your rib once in a while, causing aches and pains in the ribs. You will feel this type of rib pain just under the breast on the side where the baby is.

3. Heartburn

During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is released to prepare the mommy-to-be for birth. This causes pain around the pelvis and under the ribs.

4. Increase in Breast Size

Growing breasts cause agony, tired shoulders and backache. They also put pressure on the rib muscles.

5. Hormonal Changes

The hormone progesterone, which is essential for uterine contractions, can soften the rib muscles and ligaments, making them prone to soreness. The rise in oestrogen levels can increase the chances of gallstones forming, which can occasionally become big enough to induce pain.

6. Stress

Stress can cause pain and aches all over the body. Pregnant women suffer from anxiety and tension that can make them prone to rib pain.

7. Inflammation

During pregnancy, the cartilage attached to your ribs can expand and cause inflammation in that part of the body. This could be another reason for you to feel rib pain during pregnancy.

8. Gallstones

The risk of gallstone diseases during pregnancy increases because of slower emptying of the gallbladder and biliary ducts and higher estrogen levels in the body. Many times gallstones don’t cause any symptoms. But they can cause pain in the upper right abdomen in serious cases. Some women may even require to remove them with surgery after delivery. 


Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and ask questions about your symptoms, due date, etc. She’ll also check your blood pressure. Depending on the stage you’re in, a foetal check-up may be recommended. This can help diagnose the cause of rib pain during pregnancy. If you experience pain in the upper right side of your rib by your liver, it could be a sign of gallstones, kidney infection, preeclampsia, or pancreatitis. Remember to talk about the area od the rib pain you are experiencing with your doctor.

What Can Exacerbate the Pain?

Sitting at a desk or car for a long time can put a strain on your rib cage. Doctors recommend moving and stretching every 45 minutes and using an exercise ball at work.

Preventive Measures

Although body aches cannot be avoided, there are some things you can do to prevent them from becoming unbearable.

1. Exercise Regularly

Staying active with yoga can keep rib pain at bay. According to your BMI (Body Mass Index), maintaining an ideal weight will contribute to a more comfortable pregnancy.

2. Eat Healthily

A high-fat diet can lead to the formation of gallstones and cause excess weight gain. try including lean meats, fresh vegetables, fruits, and nuts in your diet to balance your gestational weight and avoid gallstones.

Eat Healthily

Remedies for Rib Pain During Pregnancy

Here are a few remedies that can provide relief to your ribs hurting during pregnancy:

1. Visit a Chiropractor

A chiropractor has specialist knowledge about the skeletal system. Visiting one regularly will prevent your bones from undue stress during pregnancy.

2. Adjust Your Posture

In the later stage of pregnancy, a drooping spine will worsen the pain in your ribs. Keep your body upright and lean back while sitting and walking to prevent muscular tension in your rib cage. Sleeping towards the painful side can provide temporary relief.

3. Use Exercise Balls

Invest in an exercise ball. Lean against the ball and perform a few rolls. This will stretch your rib muscles and relieve pain. Ensure you do it correctly.

Using Exercise Balls during pregnancy

4. Place a Warm/Cold Compress

Placing 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.

5. Support Your Body

Nothing is as important as supporting your body during pregnancy. There are several supportive products that support your body and keep your baby safe. For example, nursing bras, maternity pillows, and lumbar support products allow you to maintain the right posture. You can also use a pregnancy belt.

6. Wear Loose Clothing

Avoid wearing tight clothing that compresses your breasts. Loose clothing will allow you to breathe more comfortably and avoid pain.

7. Try Massage

Massaging your body is a simple and effective way of getting relief. You can find simple massage techniques online or hire a skilled masseur.

8. Apply Some Warmth

A warm bath has the power to ease many sore muscles and aches of pregnancy. If you think you can’t safely climb out of the bath, then applying warmth to the rib area using a heating pad is a good option.

When to Visit a Doctor?

In most cases, rib pain is the result of body changes during pregnancy. However, unbearable pain may have an underlying cause like:

  • Preeclampsia: Right-side rib pain in pregnancy is another indication of preeclampsia. This is a condition that happens during pregnancy. Its symptoms are extreme abdominal pain, excess protein in the urine and high blood pressure, and rib pain (epigastric pain).
  • HELLP Syndrome: The symptoms of HELLP include intense rib pain (epigastric 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 and rib pain (epigastric pain). 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.
  • Excessive Pain: There seems to be no improvement in rib pain with the help of home remedies, and it continues to increase.

Around the 36th week of 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.

It’s possible to get relief from pregnancy rib pain. Visit your gynaecologist regularly and keep her informed about any uncomfortable developments. Remember, a healthy mother means a healthy baby.


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2. Rib pain in pregnancy; NHS Royal Berkshire; https://www.royalberkshire.nhs.uk/media/e1ufn3pq/physio-rib-pain-in-pregnancy_jan22.pdf; January 2022

3. Sore ribs in pregnancy; HSE; https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/sore-ribs-pregnancy/

4. You asked, we answered: Is rib pain during pregnancy normal?; Nebraska Medicine; https://www.nebraskamed.com/pregnancy-childbirth/pregnancy-pain; April 2022

5. Preeclampsia and eclampsia; Harvard Health Publishing; https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/preeclampsia-and-eclampsia-a-to-z; Juen 2023

6. Rib Pain and Pregnancy; Dr. Lauren Keller; https://drlaurenkeller.com/blog/2019/5/2/rib-pain-and-pregnancy; May 2019

7. Five ways to reduce rib pain during pregnancy; Epworth; https://www.epworth.org.au/blog/2018/five-ways-to-reduce-rib-pain-during-pregnancy; July 2018

Also Read:

Knee Pain when Pregnant
Stomach Pain in Pregnancy
Joint Pain during Pregnancy

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