Causes and Treatments for Rib Pain During Pregnancy

Very uncomfortable pregnant woman in third trimester

Rib pain during pregnancy is a common complaint, especially in the third trimester.

Rib Pain

Rib pain can occur anywhere in your front upper torso or your mid to upper back. Your ribs wrap around the upper back and chest and reach slightly into your abdomen and mid back. Any type of discomfort or pain in these areas is considered rib pain. Sometimes this pain is continual or sometimes it is a very sharp pain when you take a deep breath. Sitting, standing, or laying down may either make the pain worse or lessen it, depending on the situation. Sitting is generally the most uncomfortable position for rib pain.

Causes of Rib Pain during Pregnancy

There are several different reasons you may experience rib pain during pregnancy. The first and most obvious reason for painful ribs is that your baby is growing and your expanding uterus is pushing all of your internal organs up into your rib cage where there is little room. Other reasons for painful ribs are:

Heavier Breasts

It is normal for your breasts to enlarge during pregnancy. Heavier breasts may weigh down on your shoulders and put pressure on your rib cage, causing pain or pressure.


Your body starts to prepare itself for giving birth by increasing the hormones that loosen your ligaments and relax your muscles. This may cause pain in your ribs.

Urinary Tract Infection

A strange side effect of a urinary tract infection may be rib pain. Urinary tract infections are an infection in your bladder that sometimes accompanies pregnancy because the baby is lying on the bladder. See your doctor if you suspect you have a urinary tract infection.

Stress and tension

Anxiety and stress can lead to an increase in pain, not only in your ribs but also in your shoulders, neck, and head.


Your digestive system may be cramped because of the growing baby, which can cause bouts of indigestion or acid reflux that cause pain in your ribs. Indigestion may also be due to hormones and difficulty digesting rich or spicy foods.

How To Alleviate Rib Pain

If you are carrying your baby high up in the abdomen and you just don't have enough room, you can try to alleviate your rib pain by finding comfortable positions so you can rest. Sitting seems to be the most uncomfortable position for most pregnant women. Following are a few tips to alleviate rib pain during pregnancy:

  • Lie on your side propped up with maternity pillows.
  • Place pillows behind your back, in front of your chest, and between your knees.
  • If you do have to sit for part of the day, make sure your chair supports your back so you can sit upright. Slouching forward can exacerbate your rib pain.
  • Stand up frequently and stretch one arm at a time above your head.
  • Wear a pregnancy girdle to support your belly.

Yoga And Meditation

Taking a yoga class or learning meditation skills may not only help with your rib pain now, but can also help you during labor and delivery to remain calmer. Find yoga classes that are designed for pregnant women by contacting a local yoga studio. If there are not any specialized yoga classes available, talk to the yoga instructor before class and ask her for precautions you should take during class. You can also purchase a yoga pregnancy DVD to practice at home.

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Causes and Treatments for Rib Pain During Pregnancy