Rib Pain During Pregnancy
Rib pain during pregnancy is usually experienced in the third trimester, although for some women it can begin 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.
If your baby is in a breech position, the pressure from his or her head wedged underneath your ribs might be the cause of your discomfort.
Sore ribs are usually felt on the side of the baby’s position and 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 36 weeks, 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?
While there is not much you can do to stop 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.
It's important to know that while you are pregnant, you cannot take many ‘pain killer' or anti-inflammatory medications. For medications like ibuprofen, for example, the biggest risks (including some very serious) for your baby are in the first and third trimester.
For unbearable pain, see your doctor or midwife about taking paracetamol (known as acetaminophen in the US) or other medications. Pharmacists can also be a great resource on what you can take, as they are usually the most up-to-date on drug information. But unless you have professional advice, avoid all medicines where possible.
See our article for more information about pain killers during pregnancy.
Best 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 – every two hours (or less if it helps), get up and take a stretch break or short walk
- Heat packs or cold packs – whatever works best for you
- A nice hot shower on your back (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 can make you feel worse – most importantly, sugar and grains. Reducing these two will also significantly reduce your risk of gestational diabetes.
Here is a really effective exercise to give you temporary relief, as shared by midwife, Alan Rooney:
“Stand facing a wall. With your feet 40 centimetres 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 effective, 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 visit your complementary health practitioner if you haven’t already. Depending on which therapy you prefer, an osteopath, 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 balance 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 giving birth. As soon as my gorgeous girl was born, it completely disappeared.