Rib Pain During Pregnancy

If you have already started your third trimester of pregnancy, then there is an excellent chance that you have already had back, ligament and hip pain. Unfortunately, you will soon add another type of pain to the list. Rib pain can make you feel short of breath and cause pains on your upper torso. To find out more about rib pain during pregnancy, read on.

What Does Rib Pain During Pregnancy Happen?

Growing Breasts

One of the first reasons why you may have rib pain during pregnancy is your breasts. As your breasts grow, your body has to learn how to carry the weight. Muscles and ligaments in your shoulders and back will start to ache as they try to accommodate the extra weight. Many women will see their breasts grow by at least one bra size during pregnancy. Plus, your breasts can weigh five pounds or more once they are full of milk. If you have rib, back or shoulder pain, don’t be surprised—carrying around an extra five to seven pounds can do that to you.

Urinary Tract Infections

It seems counterintuitive to have a urinary tract infection that causes rib pain, but it can happen. Normally, a urinary tract infection starts by causing pain in the lower part of your abdomen and a burning sensation when you urinate. If you do not treat it right away, it can infect your kidneys and cause pain in other parts of your body.

An Expanding Uterus

During pregnancy, your uterus will have to expand to make room for the growing baby. With this increased pressure in your abdominal area, the muscles on the rib cage can end up feeling strained as they pull more tightly all the time. This can make breathing difficult, and many women will experience shortness of breath while they are pregnant. Women who have multiple babies in their womb, shorter waists or larger babies can even end up with a fractured rib.


When you are stressed out, your body can handle that stress in different ways. Many people tighten their muscles when they are under stress, which can lead to pain in the back, ribs or shoulders. Plus, anxiety can manifest as many types of pain in the body.

Hormonal Changes

During pregnancy, your progesterone levels will naturally rise. This can cause rib pain. The ligaments and muscles around the spine and pelvic area can soften with increased progesterone levels, which can make your rib cage and back feel tense. This normally happens near the last stage of pregnancy when the progesterone levels rise the most as your body prepares to give birth.

Pressure Within Your Diaphragm

As the fetus expands into the area of the chest, it can end up causing a great deal of discomfort. At this time, you may feel pain as the fetus repositions itself or stretches. The growth can make it difficult to breathe as the fetus puts more pressure on your diaphragm. Since the diaphragm is surrounded by nerves, it can make you feel especially painful around the shoulders and ribs.

How Can I Relieve Rib Pain During Pregnancy?

Use a Warm or Cold Compress

While it may not work for everyone, some women swear by using ice packs on their sore ribs. Warmth from a shower or a bath could also help. Both options are easy to do at home and can help with rib pain relief. Use the ice bags on your ribs and lift your arms above your head. Meanwhile, soaking in a warm bath can help to loosen the muscles and relieve pain.

Get Pillows for Nighttime Support

Pillows are a pregnant woman’s best friend. Pillows can help you relieve soreness by reducing the amount of pressure that is placed on any single part of your body. Try lumping them in sections around you so that more of your body is holding up your weight.

Sleep on Another Side

Your sleeping position could be at fault for your rib and upper back pain. Try switching sides to see if it helps. Usually, doctors recommend sleeping on the left side or whichever side is the least painful.

Make Sure to Wear Loose Clothes

While you love your regular clothes, they are probably not the best choice right now. Wearing restrictive, tight or too small clothing can add pressure around your ribs. Instead, look for loose clothing that gives you extra breathing room. While a nursing bra is option, you should definitely invest in a bra that provides extra support. After you give birth, you will want a nursing bra because it will provide you with support without overly confining your breasts.

Try Moving Around

Moving around is great for your body and can help improve the functioning of your digestive system. While you may not want to, walking or exercising will help to limit pain and ensure a healthy pregnancy. Just make sure you always follow your doctor’s orders when it comes to exercising and diet recommendations.

Make Sure to Use Supportive Products

Most women will become pregnant at some point in their lives, so there are literally hundreds and thousands of products designed for pregnant women. Supportive products like body pillows, belly bras, belts and lumbar seat pillows can help to reduce the pressure on body. As a result, you can enjoy lower rib and back pain than you would otherwise have.

Give Yourself a Massage

Massages are an amazing, natural way to reduce rib pain. If you cannot reach the painful areas easily, have your partner or a close friend help. Use gentle massage on painful sections to help relieve strained muscles.

Try Leaning Back

Good posture is important for your back and ribs. If you lean forward too much, it causes your extra weight from your stomach and breasts to contort your body. Make sure to lean backwards ad let your belly space expand. This can help to reduce the strain on your lower back muscles and ribs.

When Should I See a Doctor?

While rib pain is a common symptom in late pregnancy, there are times when you should be worried. Constant, severe pain is a sign that you should go to your doctor. Luckily, most of the rib pain will go away once the uterus drops around the 36th week. As the baby prepares for birth, there will be even more space available to reduce the pressure.

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