Rib Pain in Pregnancy: Reasons, Signs & Treatment

Rib Pain During Pregnancy – All You Need to Know

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rima Sonpal (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

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 third trimester, you may start experiencing soreness near the rib cage. However, rib pain can be relieved with correct posture, stretching and exercising. Read on to find out what rib pain is and how you can manage it.

When Does Rib Pain Occur?

Most women experience rib pain in the 26th week of pregnancy; some may experience this pain during early pregnancy also.

Symptoms Accompanying Rib Pain During Pregnancy

The symptoms that may accompany rib pain during pregnancy are:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 caused by an increase in body size. Here are other common causes of rib pain during pregnancy:

  • 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.

  • 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, can cause 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.

  • 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.

  • Increase in Breast Size

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

  • 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.

  • 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.


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.

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.

  • Exercise Regularly

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

  • Visit a Chiropractor

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

Remedies for Rib Pain During Pregnancy

Here are a few remedies that can provide relief from rib pain:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Wear Loose Clothing

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

  • 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.

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

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.

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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