cramps in pregnancy

Rib Pain During Pregnancy – What to do?

A woman can experience a broad array of discomforting symptoms in pregnancy. Rib pain is one of them. It becomes more prominent in the third trimester when the baby develops at a rapid rate. However, you may start to experience pain early on in the pregnancy. Its intensity varies by trimester. There can be several reasons for causing this pain. In this article, we will discuss the causes of this pain, its diagnosis, and ways to prevent it.

Causes Of Rib Pain In First Trimester

Some women can start experiencing rib pain right from the first trimester. Some of the common symptoms of this pain include

Musculoskeletal changes: As the body expands in pregnancy, it limits varying ranges of motion in the body. One of them is feeling difficulty to bend in the forward direction. Such limited motion gives rise to rib pain.

Gallstones: Pregnancy puts a woman at a high possibility for gallstone ailment. This is due to high levels of estrogen and low rate of emptying of the biliary ducts, and gallbladder in the body. This can lead to the development of gallstones in the body. These stones are another reason behind causing rib pain.

Heartburn: There a special hormone named “relaxin” produced in pregnancy that aids in childbirth. This hormone can cause pain in the pelvis and ribs in women to make space for the baby. This hormone relaxes the esophagus that makes them more susceptible to heartburn. This discomfort manifest in the form of rib pain in the body.

The pressure exerted from the developing fetus: The size of the baby in the womb is also responsible for rib pain. As the fetus grows larger, his weight exerts strain on the abdomen muscles. This, in turn, puts pressure on the rib muscles that lead to pain.

The positioning of the fetus: Along with size, the placement of the baby in the womb also leads to rib pain. Due to the nearing of the second trimester, the fetus modifies its position. The head faces down and the feet point in the direction of the ribs. This positioning of the fetus exerts the rib muscles and leads to rib pain. The leg and arm movements of the baby causes pain in the ribs.

Causes Of Rib Pain In Second Trimester

Round ligament pain: The round ligament is a set of fibrous tissue cords. These cords connect the front section of the uterus to the groin. The growing uterus in pregnancy exerts pressure on these ligaments and can cause stabbing pain around the back, ribs, and/or pelvis.

Preeclampsia: HELLP syndrome and Preeclampsia are seen to occur in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. It mostly causes pain in the region below the ribs. Some of the other areas to experience pain are shoulders, and close to the bra line. Early delivery is suggested to relieve these discomforting conditions.

Causes Of Rib Pain In Third Trimester

Urinary tract infection: Pregnancy alters the levels of bacteria in the urinary tract that increases the possibilities of UTIs. This condition can lead to pain in ribs, and kidneys.

Diagnosis of Rib Pain In Pregnancy

A doctor carries out a physical examination to evaluate the condition of rib pain in pregnancy. He may ask the pregnant women about the due date, symptoms, concerns, and other related factors to arrive at the right cause for this painful condition. The doctor may measure the blood pressure of a woman, and administer the fetus’s health to ensure his heart rate is steady. He may also request blood and urine samples to figure out if the pain is due to UTI or any other infection.

Ways To Get Relief From Rib Pain

  • Based on the diagnosis, the doctor can prescribe certain methods to treat the pain. If it is due to UTI infection, then he may advise antibiotics. If he finds, the presence of gallstones to be the issue, then he would advise performing surgery to remove gallstones before childbirth.
  • In other cases, he would advise a woman to perform a gentle exercise, yoga poses and stretching regularly. It will help in stretching out the chest and back muscles to cure aches and pains in the body. Exercises, like postural changes, can also help to reduce musculoskeletal pain.
  • The heat pad is another way to get quick and safe relief from the pain.
    It is also suggested to not wear tight-fitting clothes as they can worsen pregnancy aches. Loose-fitting clothes will help in reducing pain.

Also read: How to get relief from back pain during pregnancy


Rib pain in pregnancy is a common phenomenon that most women experience. It is majorly due to the position of growing fetus in the womb that leads to pain and aches around the ribs. In a majority of cases, the cause behind rib pain is harmless. In rare conditions, this pain is caused due to a medical complication. If the pain is excruciating and does not go by doing stretches, heat application, etc., then get the doctor’s assistance as soon as possible.