Rib Pain During Pregnancy

Rib pain during pregnancy is not uncommon and most pregnancies will encounter pain of some sort in that area, however there are several different potential causes of painful ribs for pregnant women and here at Best For Mums we’re going to take a look at them all as well as offer help and advice to either prevent the pain or to help reduce it as much possible.

11 Causes Of Painful Ribs During Pregnancy

1. Growing uterus

One of the biggest and most visible changes for pregnant women is the growing uterus which leads to being a big bump. This growing uterus, especially during the third trimester, applies pressure all over the body which includes the bottom of the rib cage. This pressure can lead to a delicate rib area as opposed to sharp stunning pains.

2. Baby kicking and punching

As the baby gets bigger and bigger their kicks and punches can become stronger. Towards the third trimester, a baby’s kicks and punches (depending on whether they’re engaged or breech) can really start to hurt and can lead to some really painful ribs with repeated strikes.

3. Sleeping position

Your sleeping position will inevitably change when you’re pregnant, especially during the third trimester. Most women will end up laying on their left to sleep which can put extra pressure on the ribs night after night. Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and that you aren’t lying on anything when you sleep like a loose arm, remote control or your phone!

4. Bad posture

A growing belly puts more pressure on the body and someone with bad posture can really make things a lot worse. Bad posture when sitting, stretching and bending over can add unnecessary pressure on a few areas of the body including the ribs.

5. Musculoskeletal changes

Pregnancy causes the body to release a hormone known as relaxin which can literally relax the muscles and ligaments of the body to allow it to stretch and expand to make way for the baby and for the pelvis to prepare for labor. This can lead to some pain and discomfort, particularly in the pelvic region and sometimes the rib cage. This is a totally normal pain and doesn’t often persist for too long nor is it as painful as some other pains you might face!

6. Acid reflux/indigestion

As baby grows he or she can apply a lot of pressure on your stomach which can, unfortunately, lead to some acid reflux and/or indigestion. To some people, this may manifest itself as rib pain. Those who have experienced acid reflux and indigestion before pregnancy may not make the link between pregnancy and this pain.

7. Heartburn

Relaxin can also mean changes to your esophagus, this change can lead to heartburn for many women which can produce symptoms not too dissimilar to rib pain! This is another one of those completely normal pains that will come and go and last for only around an hour a time.

8. Urinary tract infection

If you’re experiencing pain on your side along with sharp pains in your ribs then you may have a urinary water infection. Other symptoms include trouble with passing water and burning pain when you do. If you suspect you may have a water infection then find medical attention as soon as possible.

10. Fractured/broken rib

It’s totally an outside chance but have you recently had a big impact in the ribs and been having a lot of pain moving around after it? It’s quite possible you may have a fractured or broken rib. However, we must add that if you did get hit with enough force to fracture a rib you wouldn’t need to do a search online to figure it out. In the rare occurrence this is the cause of your rib pain during pregnancy then please seek medical attention as soon as possible.

11. Gallstones

High level of estrogen and slower emptying of the gallbladder and biliary ducts means a higher chance of developing the painful experience of having gallstones. Only a small amount of pregnant women will develop gallstones so it’s an extremely rare occurrence. However, if it is the case then one of the many symptoms may be rib pain – however, a very sharp pain in the abdomen is likely the first symptom you notice. If you suspect gallstones then seek medical attention immediately.  

7 Tips To Prevent Rib Pain For Pregnant Women

We try to make sure that we offer helpful help and advice to everyone that visits our website. Although some types of pain in the ribs are unavoidable we still have some guidance to give which can help reduce the overall discomfort and maybe even avoid some from happening in the first place. It’s worth noting that we aren’t trained medical professionals so please treat this page as general advice only.

1. Staying active

We can not stress enough in general that one of the key ways to have a great pregnancy is to try and stay as active as possible throughout the entire pregnancy. By staying as active as possible you can avoid developing weakening muscles which can then develop bad posture and sore ribs. Staying active can also help get your baby into the desired position towards the end which can really make a difference with your health.

You may not feel like you’re capable of staying active in the later weeks but you can still go for long walks.

2. Loose fitting clothes

Many women look forward to wearing maternity clothing while others dread it. What is true for every pregnant women though is that loose fitting clothes mean less pressure on the body, including the ribs, and therefore less of a chance to develop sore spots such as ribs.

3. Exercise good posture

Bad posture on a regular basis will inevitably lead to muscle soreness even if you’re not pregnant. The extra weight of the baby, especially in the second and third trimester, can make mobility even more difficult which makes having good posture even more important. Always keep your back straight, lift (if you have to lift) with your legs and not your back and use cushions for support when relaxing to help keep rib soreness at bay.

4. Use a pregnancy pillow when sleeping

A pregnancy pillow has been designed to help you lie on your side comfortably at night by supporting your sides and the growing bump. Using one of these can help reduce the chances of getting sore ribs due to a poor sleeping position that we mentioned previously.

5. Stretching/Yoga

Yoga has long been known as a very effective method to keep pregnant mothers supple and in great physical shape. Prenatal Yoga or some light stretching can keep your muscles and ligaments strong and flexible and along with staying active could be all you need for a sore rib free pregnancy.

6. Use a maternity bra

It doesn’t take long after conception for your breasts to begin to swell and for your regular bra to be inadequate. A tight bra can cause muscle and rib soreness so we’d recommend making sure you have a bra that’s fit for purpose and to perhaps think about shopping a couple of times before the baby’s due date especially at the third trimester.

7. Relax!

Staying active does not mean to overdo it. In the first and second trimester, you may feel like you have the same energy as always but it will soon catch up with you. It’s very important to make sure that you relax whenever your body is giving you signs to slow down, like having a sore back or ribs. And when you do relax be sure to still keep a good posture sitting down or plenty of cushions when lying down. This is especially true in the third trimester.

6 Ways You Relieve Sore or Painful Ribs When Expecting A Baby

As the first port of call we’d recommend doing as many of the tips we’ve listed in our section to avoid rib pain first and then use this section if you’ve still got rib pain and just need some help to make it a little easier for yourself.

If you’ve already got painful ribs and you just want some help making it a little bit easier to manage and to reduce it then read our tips on how to relieve sore or painful ribs. Once again, we’d like to remind our readers to not take this advice as gospel or qualified medical advice, the following is simply some tips to consider and use your own judgment.

1. Take some paracetamol

If you’re just experiencing some mild soreness of the ribs and you just want a reprieve then some paracetamol may get you through this bad patch and let you get on with your day. Don’t overdo the dosage though! Be sure to read out the article on paracetamol during pregnancy.

Click here to read out paracetamol during pregnancy guide.

2. Have some sleep

Sometimes a rest is all anyone needs. If you’ve been overdoing it and your ribs are a bit tender try and get some rest and see if that makes a difference.

3. Take a hot shower

A nice, long, hot shower (not too hot!) can do wonders for all sorts of pains, including rib pain.

4. Hot water bottle on your back

Hot water bottles are a godsend for pregnant women and not just during winter. Prepare a hot water bottle and place it on your upper or lower back (not on your front) when relaxing and you may find yourself feeling a lot better in no time!

5. Cut out sugar

When you already have sore ribs, sugar can make things worse and cause inflammation. Caffeine can do the same thing but if you’re pregnant you shouldn’t be having any of that anyway.

6. Heat/Cold packs

Heat and/or cold packs on the affected area can help reduce soreness and inflammation. Depending on the root cause of your sore ribs then use either cold or hot packs depending on which one seems to work for you. This is also a good combination along with a hot water bottle.

Maggie Jones

Maggie Jone met Samantha Davenport in Liverpool University and they were good friends and they both became pregnant and had their first children in 2005. It’s during this time that they both started the Facebook group to help NW mothers by sharing their experiences. Maggie is a professional photographer and proud mum to Sally and Daniel.

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