Rib Pain in the Course of Pregnancy

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Pregnancy is an exciting and almost magical time, and a time filled with hope, excitement and expectation. However what many people forget to mention is that it’s also a time of discomfort, severe nerves and multiple problems and complications. Countless changes occur to the body that vary from person to person, and each one can be painful and unsettling as well as a potential cause for concern. Am I supposed to be bleeding like that? Why does that feel uncomfortable? Is this hurting the baby?

The good news is that often these are just a normal part of pregnancy and in most cases it is no cause for concern. The best treatment is to be well informed, and that way you can help to address the symptoms and improve your comfort while at the same time allaying any fears you might otherwise have had.

One such example is rib pain, a common problem that many people aren’t aware of that is most likely to occur during the 3rd trimester. Being close to the stomach and the baby it’s natural to panic, and particularly if you weren’t prepared for it, but the good news is that usually this is no cause for concern.

Rib cage pain can occur on either side of the rib cage and in various areas. It has a number of different causes which we shall address here.

Symptoms and Causes

One cause of rib pain during pregnancy is increased pressure from the uterus. This pain comes from under the ribs as the uterus grows, and is caused by it pressing up and beneath the ribs and the rest of the chest. This upward force can be what causes the pain and you might also notice that you are short on breath.

Other symptoms can include shoulder ache which is caused by pressure on nerves on the diaphragm linked to the shoulders; as well as indigestion or acid reflux as the baby places pressure on your stomach also.

Another cause of rib pain during pregnancy is the increased weight of the breasts. As the breasts become larger, so do they place more weight on your rib cage as well as your spine. This can completely alter your posture by pulling your shoulders and head down which can cause the ache on the rib cage.

Finally you will also find that you undergo a lot of changes to the muscles and the ligaments caused by alterations in your hormones. Combined with changes in your posture this can cause uncomfortable changes in position around your body including the ribs. There are many tiny muscles situated between our ribs in our chest, and as these change shape and position we might feel cramping and other pains. During pregnancy the rib cage is actually expanding to increase your lung capacity as well as to make room for the uterus and this can of course also cause discomfort.

Management

While there is usually nothing to worry about with regards to rib pain, you will nevertheless find that it is uncomfortable and undesirable and you will probably be looking for ways to alleviate the pain.

Fortunately there are several things you can do to make yourself more comfortable. Here are some suggestions:

Analgesics

Of course pain medication is a viable option to help ease the pain and while this won’t address the cause it can make it much easier to put up with the discomfort.

Posture

Altering your posture can have a huge impact on many of the causes of rib pain. You are likely to find that the pain in your ribs is worst when you are sitting down. This is because you are folding slightly just below the ribs, but also because you are more ‘bunched up’ creating less space inside your body for the growing uterus.

To alleviate this pain then you can address it in several ways. One method is simply to keep your arms raised when you are sitting down. Rest them on arm rests that are above your rib cage for instance and this will help to pull your rib cage up and away from the uterus. Likewise simply standing and stretching your body upwards can provide temporary relief.

You should also improve your posture in general to prevent cramping and to avoid back pain etc caused by your increased breast size. Practice rolling your shoulders back, keeping your back straight (when sitting, tucking your legs under a chair can help to improve this) and keeping your head and neck upright.

Exercise

Doing some basic chest exercises can help you to keep your muscles in the area limber and can also help you to better support your enlarging breasts. There are many light exercises you can do for your chest, such as pressing both your hands together just in front of your sternum and holding for several seconds at a time.

Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility and posture, as well as to practice light and low impact exercises that will help you better prepare for the changes your body is going to go through. You can also benefit in many other ways from prenatal yoga which also helps your core stability and breathing.

Clothes

Choosing the right clothes can present you with a lot of benefits. First of all you don’t want to wear anything too tight as this will only bunch you up more and reduce the space inside for your uterus. In short, while you may be gaining weight this is not the time for magic pants or a corset. Lose fitting clothes are best and these will generally help to improve your comfort.

At the same time you should ensure to invest in well fitting bras that are able to support your breasts. This will help to improve posture and again it will protect your ribs.

Massage

Gentle massage from a partner or professional can help to alleviate discomfort temporarily as well as finding and eliminating knots and tense areas in your muscle.

If your discomfort continues or you notice other concerning symptoms then be sure to get yourself checked out with a doctor.

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Theodoros Manfredi

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Theodoros Manfredi

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