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Experiencing Rib Pain During Pregnancy: Understanding the Possible Reasons and Ways to Prevent It

Pregnancy brings about a period of joy and anticipation as you prepare to greet a new member into your family. But, it’s also a time that comes with its own set of challenges for many women, affecting the body significantly. The changes can range from morning sickness to an expanding belly – some of these changes are easily noticed and expected right from the start, while some might emerge gradually. One such delayed transformation could be rib pain, which can lead to discomfort and worry. This pain can be caused by a variety of factors, and it often varies as the pregnancy progresses from one trimester to another. For example, it might be due to heartburn in the early stages or the expanding uterus pressing against the ribs in the final trimester...READ THE FULL STORY HERE▶

In most scenarios, this type of pain is not harmful, but it’s essential to understand how rib pain can evolve throughout pregnancy, its potential red flags, symptoms, and how you can prevent it to ensure a smooth pregnancy experience. This article aims to provide you with a thorough guide. Let’s dive in!

How Does Rib Pain Change In Each Trimester Of Pregnancy?

Experiencing rib pain is quite common among pregnant women. However, it’s important to note that this symptom can be mitigated as time goes on. The intensity and nature of the pain might vary from one individual to another since every pregnancy is unique. Below is a guide on how rib pain progresses and changes with each trimester:

1. Rib Pain In The First Trimester

As mentioned above, rib pain symptoms may not be experienced in the early stage of pregnancy. The chances are very low. But, you may feel a burning sensation in your upper belly due to hormonal changes in your first trimester of pregnancy. The hormone fluctuations may happen because, at this stage, the body starts getting ready to support the developing fetus. These changes produce effects that help loosen the ligaments and relax the muscles, which can cause rib pain.

2. Rib Pain In The Second Trimester

As you pass over your first trimester, you might experience rib pain either on the right or left side as you enter the second trimester. Though hormonal imbalances are managed efficiently, the pain in your ribs can become more severe later in the second and third trimesters as the baby inside the womb continues to grow. This continued growth can push your uterus upward against the rib cage and diaphragms, which may cause rib pain during pregnancy 2nd trimester. Also, you might feel shortness of breath.

3. Rib Pain In The Third Trimester

The third trimester of pregnancy is when you can feel the punches and kicks due to your growing baby’s arm and leg movements. In addition, as your uterus and breasts continue to expand, they can put additional pressure on the rib cage. These potential factors can trigger left rib pain during pregnancy third trimester. In the last weeks (weeks from 36-40) of this trimester, the baby is shifted naturally to rest on the pelvis which may alleviate the pressure on the ribs, providing relief or comfort.

What Are The Causes Of Rib Paining During Pregnancy?

Most commonly, the causes of pain in the ribs during pregnancy differ from one trimester to another. The below section explains all the causes and the reason behind their occurrence:

1. Pressure From Fetus

Being pregnant and rib pain have a significant interconnection. In the last week of the second trimester and the beginning of the third trimester, the uterus starts expanding upward to adjust the growing fetus. As the developing fetus grows, it may begin to cause pressure against the ribs, causing pain in the left side of the ribs during pregnancy. Moreover, when pregnant women carry the excess weight of the fetus, it can also put stress on the muscles near the abdominal area. This, in turn, can place a strain on the muscles of the rib that can lead to muscle pain or aches. This pain in the ribs during pregnancy can vary from mild to moderate. If the pain is severe and prolonged, consult your gynecologist.

2. Position Of Fetus

Around the end of the second trimester, the fetus starts changing their position. They move upside down with the head facing down and the feet towards the upper side of the ribs. This new fetal position can cause pressure against the ribs, which also begins affecting the other body parts of women. The movement of the legs and arms of growing babies, especially the kicks, can result in pain in the ribs while pregnant. It may also negatively impact other areas of the body. Pregnant women can feel rib pain below their breast, particularly on the side where an infant is.

3. Gallstones

Most women during pregnancy can develop a high risk of gallstones. The reason can be spikes in estrogen levels and difficult or slow draining of the gallbladder. Both complications can cause gallstone formation. As per research, about 12% of women in any trimester of pregnancy are affected by gallstones. It can happen at any trimester of the pregnancy. Such a condition may or may not show noticeable signs or symptoms. If the gallstone is severe, women might feel pain or discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen. Some pregnant women may undergo surgery afterchildbirth for gallstone removal.

4. Heartburn

During the pregnancy, the body releases some hormones known as relaxins. These potential hormones help relax the muscles and ligaments to prepare for childbirth. In addition, relaxins can cause pain or aches in many body areas, such as under the ribs and pelvis. This is because the body tries to make space for the growing fetus. Moreover, heartburn can also contribute to rib discomfort during pregnancy. Relaxin is essential in soothing the esophagus area, leading to stomach acid spikes than usual. This is why women during pregnancy feel heartburn, which they can experience early in the first trimester and may stay for the entire pregnancy.

5. Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia (high blood pressure) and HELLP syndrome are complications that can occur at the end of the second trimester and third trimester of pregnancy and lead to rib pain. The abdominal pain on the right side of the ribs during pregnancy can cause liver pain. Women might feel liver pain in different ways. For instance, some may experience it near the bra line, a few as shoulder pain, and some have severe heartburn. The following are the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia:

  • high protein levels in the urine
  • elevated blood pressure readings
  • headaches that don’t subside with medications
  • nausea
  • extreme heartburn
  • difficulty in urination activity
  • swelling in the face and hands
  • sudden increase in weight
  • visual disturbances like eye floaters
  • pain in the upper right abdomen side
  • Malaise

Both the complications during pregnancy can be harmful for women as well as growing babies. That makes immediate medical treatment important.

Main Symptoms Of Rib Paining During Pregnancy

As the main symptom of rib pain while pregnant is a painful or hurting feeling in the rib cage, there is much more women need to know about. Take a look!

  • Chest Pain: Women may feel severe or acute pain near the chest, especially along the rib cage sides or under the breastbone.
  • Sore Ribs: The ribs of women may feel tender on touching, making it uneasy to lie on and sleep on the affected side.
  • Pain while Breathing: Coughing or deep breathing can increase the soreness in the muscles of the ribs, causing more pain.
  • Movement-Linked Pain: Lifting heavy objects, bending over, or twisting may increase rib discomfort or pain.

If you experience any of the mentioned symptoms during the early phase of pregnancy, do not neglect them. Negligence can worsen your and your growing baby’s health. Schedule an appointment with a licensed gynecologist, helping to determine if that particular pain is linked to pregnancy or some other health issues like round ligament pain or acid reflux.

What Are The Factors Influencing Rib Pain During Pregnancy?

The following are the factors that can contribute to rib ache in pregnancy:

  • Position and size of developing fetus.
  • Work styles like sitting jobs may lower the abdominal room for the growing fetus.
  • Sleeping posture or position.
  • Amount of physical movement.
  • Stress levels.

If you experience sudden breath shortness, a massive increase in rib pain, or any abnormal-related symptom, seek medical guidance. Doctors will rule out the underlying possible causes of the rib pain.

How To Relieve Rib Pain During Pregnancy?

Wondering how to relieve pain in ribs during pregnancy? You can try the mentioned tips to alleviate rib pain, which include:

1. Practice Exercises

Practicing gentle exercises such as deep breathing and stretching daily can ease rib pain during pregnancy. The study says you can try yoga, water aerobics, and swimming, as they help make muscles strong and flexible and soothe the nervous system. Moreover, you can practice pregnancy-associated exercises suggested by physiotherapists or any exercise using an exercise ball. Just roll your back over the ball and repeat a few roll-outs. It will lengthen the muscles of the ribs and alleviate pain. If you have a sitting job and need to sit for many hours, set a timer and get and stretch your body for about 20 minutes.

2. Eat Healthily

If the cause of the rib pain during pregnancy is heartburn or indigestion, follow some good eating habits. For instance, frequently eat smaller meals, avoid consuming food within 3 hours before sleeping, reduce caffeine intake, and cut down on fatty, sugar-rich, and spicy foods. Besides this, if your diet consists of high fats, it can contribute to gallstone formation and lead to an excess increase in body weight. So, do not have high-fat foods; try fresh green veggies, fruits, lean meats, and nuts. These foods will help balance the body weight during pregnancy and prevent the occurrence of gallstones.

3. Apply Warm or Cold Compress

Putting a cold or warm compress on the sore areas of the abdomen can give needed comfort. A warm compress can help relax the tense muscles and relieve discomfort. Just place the compress over the rib part, avoiding the place where the baby is. Enjoying a warm shower can also be beneficial. Mix Epsom salt in water and bathe with it. Here, Epsom salt can calm down the inflammation and reduce rib pain. On the other hand, if the pain is more acute, a cool compress can aid in making you feel better. Depending on the severity of the pain, you can rotate a cool or warm compress to ease the pain.

4. Wear Loose Clothing

You may experience pain under the bra line during pregnancy third trimester because of the inflammation caused when the cartilage connected to the ribs starts getting loose and stretched during pregnancy. Also, uterus expansion can be the reason. With an increase in uterus size, breasts also keep growing bigger. This, in turn, places stress on the rib cage. Wearing too tight dresses or undergarments can put more pressure on the pain-affected ribs. So, along with loose maternity clothes, wear the proper undergarments. A perfectly fitted bra with no belly band or underwire can allow easy breathing, comfortably support your abdomen, and relieve rib pain.

5. Adjust Your Posture

When you reach the end trimester of your pregnancy, a bowing spine can worsen the rib pain. Overarching or slouching your back part can put much strain on the ribs which can cause abdominal coning. Such a condition can lead to more threatening shortness of breath. So, always stand, walk, or sit by keeping your body upright and leaning back. This can prevent tension in the muscles of your rib cages. If the pain is severe, consult your physiotherapist who will help you with potential adjustments that can be comfortable for you.

These tips can help prevent mild rib pain during pregnancy. But if your pain is severe and emerges suddenly, reach out to doctors immediately. Professionals will help determine the root cause and help manage them safely and efficiently.

How To Sleep With Rib Pain During Pregnancy?

It can be challenging for pregnant women to rest or sleep with rib pain during pregnancy. Hence, here, we have some practical tips that you can follow to make your sleep better and more comforting. Take a look!

  • Use wedge or incline pillows to prevent pressure on ribs due to pregnancy hormones.
  • Sleep on the opposing side (either right or left) of the pain as it benefits in proper circulation of the growing baby and relieves strain from an expanding uterus on the lower ribs.
  • Do not rest flat on your back, as it can pressure the rib muscles. Instead, support yourself by placing the pillows behind the shoulders and head to reduce discomfort.
  • Adopt an SOS (Sleep On Side) position by comfortably bending and setting a pillow between your knees to support your lower back and hip. It eases pressure on ribs while ensuring your spine is correctly aligned.
  • Perform relaxation techniques such as yoga, muscle relaxation, deep breathing, or prenatal massages.

Summing Up

If your baby is growing, changing position, and showing some movement, a small amount of rib pain on the left side during pregnancy can be unavoidable. Like many other pains in any phase of pregnancy, rib pain is expected. It is not a matter of nervousness or concern! But if you experience pain with noticeable symptoms such as chest pain, sore ribs, difficulty in breathing, and pain while moving, it can be an alarming sign. Some healthy diet, exercises, posture adjustments, and a cold or warm compress can help prevent such pain. However, if the pain is severe, seek professional help for effective management and prevention of such extreme rib pain.

About the author

Tiara Clephin

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