Rib Pain During Pregnancy – 9 Tips To Relieve Sore Ribs

Rib Pain During Pregnancy

Rib pain is usually experienced in the third trimester of pregnancy, although for some women it begins even earlier. The sensation can range from mild discomfort to strong pain.

Rib pain during pregnancy is caused by pressure from the top of your growing uterus, as well as your baby kicking or punching the area. Sore ribs are usually on the side of the baby’s position and can be felt just below the breasts. You’ll probably find that your ribs are more painful when sitting, moreso when leaning forward.

The fundus (the top of your uterus) is at it’s highest at around 36 weeks of pregnancy, reaching just below the breastbone. After this time, your baby drops into your pelvic cavity in preparation for birth. This usually provides some much appreciated relief!

What Can I Do To Help Relieve The Discomfort of Rib Pain During Pregnancy?

While there is not much you can do to stop or fix a growing uterus, there are some things you can do to get some temporary relief. The below suggestions will not ‘cure’ your soreness but may help you get that relief you need to get through until baby drops down lower. Remember, being pregnant you cannot take anti-inflammatories, so steer clear of any medications, especially without medical advice. For unbearable pain, you can see your doctor or midwife about taking panadeine or panadeine forte, but still avoid all medicines where possible, as codeine can cause constipation when you are already prone to it being pregnant.

Tips For Sore Ribs

Here are 9 tips to help if you’re experiencing rib pain during pregnancy:

  • Make yourself as comfortable as possible by wearing loose fitting clothes
  • Support yourself with cushions when lying down
  • Sit up straight and don’t hunch over – create more room, while supporting your back
  • Avoid sitting down for too long – get up and take regular stretch breaks or short walks
  • Heat packs or cold packs – whatever works best for you
  • A nice hot shower (be sensible with this one – not too hot!)
  • Exercises that help you stretch out and support your body, like swimming
  • Cut out inflammation causing foods which will make you feel worse. Most importantly, eradicate sugar and grains, which will also significantly reduce your risk of gestational diabetes.
  • Stretch! Here is a really effective exercise from midwife, Alan Rooney:

“Stand facing a wall. With your feet 40cms from the wall, cross your arms in front of your face. Then lean your crossed arms on the wall sliding them up the wall above your head and stretching yourself up as far as possible. Hold the position for as long as comfortable. This lifts the diaphragm and rib cage up off the uterus and really provides huge temporary relief, especially if the pain is caused by a breech baby’s hard little head wedged under your ribs.”

It’s also a great idea to take a trip to a natural health practitioner if you haven’t already. Depending on which therapy you prefer, an osteopath, (ideally one who performs cranio sacral work), acupuncturist or chiropractor can help ease rib pain during pregnancy.

At the same time, your therapist can see how your body is going overall, and can detect any other areas which may be a problem — even contributing to your aches and pains if something is out of whack elsewhere.

Can Anything Stop Rib Pain During Pregnancy?

Aside from all that, there is only one magic pill that will take the rib pain away – giving birth! Sorry to tease, but I have been there myself and the only thing that completely fixed my sore ribs was birth. As soon as my gorgeous girl was born, it completely disappeared.

Last Updated: March 16, 2015

CONTRIBUTOR

Kelly Winder is the creator of BellyBelly.com.au, a doula, writer and mother to three awesome children. Currently, she's travelling the world for 12 months with her partner and children, and hopes to inspire more families to do the same. Visit aroundtheworldpluskids.com.au for more information.


12 comments

    1. I’m 30 weeks pregnant. I got this awful pain with my last pregnancy too and was really dreading it. I find the only way to totally get rid of it is to lay in my left (my pain is on the right) with the support of pillows. The longer I’m on my feet the worse it gets. It really does got so bad you just want to cry. It’s like a burning pain, almost like something is going to snap. But I can promise this….it vanishes as soon as baby is born. You almost forget it ever existed!

  1. My mother had twins… And lots of rib pain. It took a year for the pain to go away and her bottom ribs stick out and are kinda funny looking. I have one rib where my baby is either pressing against or kicking, Ouch! It stings/burns and wakes me up. I feel like counter pressure against his kicks helps prevent whatever sort of bruising of going on there.

  2. I am27 weeks pregnant and this ribb pain has been so bad that I have been to the emergency room twice. Cant breath feels like my heart is gonne stop. Been horrible. Didnt have this with the two boys. Not sure why i have this now?
    Only thing that really helps with the pain is a hot hot shower and the some sleep.

    1. Have they checked your blood pressure and is the pain on both sides or just one? Pain on the right side is a sign of preeclampsia and with you saying that you can’t breath, I would definitely get that checked out by your OB just to make sure it is only from the baby’s position and not an underlying issue.

      1. My pain is on the right side and when I rub my hand over it it feels swollen compared to the left! Consultant prescribed me cocodamol but I’ve given up taken those because they don’t work either. What should I do?

  3. Hi I’m 34 weeks and my left rib is killing me Which is the side my little one is laying on… The advice online does help a little but it’s just Mother Nature telling you it’s nearly time for his/hers grand entrance.. Plus had hip ache which again your body getting ready for labour. The joys of pregnancy x

  4. Rib pain is tearing my wife apart. She is 36weeks pregnant. We just came to clinic this 1am. She could not sleep nor sit down.

  5. i am currently 34 weeks, the pain is excruciating. Hoping I get some relief when baby drops into the birth canal.
    I have found that a cold wheat pack gives me a slight bit of relief but the only thing that helps is sleep,

    I have experienced the pain since around 20 weeks and prior to 20 weeks it was tender at around 8 weeks and would feel tingly in the right side under my breast. Your not alone ladies and it certainly does get worse as I have been noticing the further along I get. I wish I could say it gets better

  6. I have had this pain my last three pregnancies and it is reaching the unbearable point. So hard to take care of our other little children and family with the pain. It started as I entered my 30th week of pregnancy. In the past it has subsided as the baby got lower. Lying on an ice pack for a bit today relieved the pain a bit but it started again as soon as I got up, can’t spend weeks lying down with a busy family! I have seen a chiropractor other pregnancies and it didn’t help, the baby just needs to get lower.

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