Rib Pain During Pregnancy: Causes, Management, and Relief

Pregnancy is an incredible journey filled with moments of joy and anticipation. However, it can also be accompanied by various physical discomforts. Rib pain during pregnancy is one such issue that many women experience. If you’re wondering why you’re feeling rib pain, how to alleviate it, and when it could be a concern, this comprehensive guide is for you.

Understanding Rib Pain During Pregnancy

As the body adapts to accommodate the developing baby, it undergoes numerous changes, one of which involves the rib cage. The rib cage may expand, and the uterus pushes upwards as the baby grows, potentially leading to discomfort or pain in the ribs.

The pain might be continuous or occur only when changing positions. It might be a dull ache or a sharp, stabbing sensation. Some women describe it as a burning pain or pressure under the ribs. It can occur on either side but is often reported on the right side, just under the breasts.

Rib Pain During the First Trimester

Rib pain is less common during the first trimester, as the uterus is still small and the rib cage has not yet begun to expand significantly. However, hormonal changes during early pregnancy can cause ligaments and muscles to loosen, leading to discomfort and pain, including in the rib area.

Rib Pain During Second and Third Trimester

Rib pain is more common in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. As your baby grows, your uterus expands and pushes against your rib cage, especially from the 24th week onwards. The pain may intensify during the third trimester as the baby moves and kicks, occasionally hitting your ribs.

Left Vs. Right Rib Pain During Pregnancy

While rib pain during pregnancy can occur on either side, it is more commonly reported on the right side. This is because as the uterus grows, it naturally rotates to the right, causing more pressure on the right-side ribs.

However, left rib pain during pregnancy is not uncommon. It can be caused by the baby’s positioning or movements or the mother’s anatomical variations. It’s important to note that severe or persistent pain on the upper right side could be a sign of preeclampsia or gallbladder issues and should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.

Causes of Rib Pain During Pregnancy

Rib pain during pregnancy can be due to various causes:

  • Growing Uterus: As your baby grows, your uterus expands, pushing against your rib cage and abdomen. This pressure can cause discomfort or pain in the ribs.
  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal changes during pregnancy cause your ligaments and joints to become more flexible, including those in your rib cage, leading to discomfort or pain.
  • Baby’s Movements: Your baby’s kicks and movements can sometimes cause sharp, temporary pain in the ribs.
  • Body Posture: As your belly grows, your posture may change, causing muscle strain and rib discomfort.
  • Expanded Rib Cage: Your rib cage expands during pregnancy to accommodate your growing baby, leading to potential discomfort or pain.

Managing Rib Pain During Pregnancy

There are several ways to manage and alleviate rib pain during pregnancy:

  • Change Positions Frequently: Changing your position often can alleviate rib pain by shifting your baby’s position. Try standing up, stretching, or walking around.
  • Practice Good Posture: Maintaining good posture can help reduce rib pain. Avoid slouching and use cushions for support when sitting.
  • Wear Loose Clothing: Tight clothing may add pressure to your ribs and abdomen. Opt for loose, comfortable clothing instead.
  • Prenatal Yoga or Exercise: Gentle exercises and prenatal yoga can help stretch and strengthen your muscles, reducing discomfort. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen.
  • Warm or Cold Compresses: Applying a warm compress to the affected area can help relax your muscles and alleviate pain. Alternatively, a cold compress can help numb the area and reduce pain.

Severe Rib Pain During Pregnancy: When to Seek Help

While rib pain is generally a normal part of pregnancy, severe or persistent pain should not be ignored. Severe pain could be a sign of a more serious condition such as preeclampsia or gallbladder disease.

Preeclampsia is a pregnancy condition characterized by high blood pressure and damage to organs such as the liver and kidneys. Severe pain under the ribs, particularly on the right side, can be a symptom.

Gallbladder disease is another condition that can cause severe right-sided rib pain. Pregnancy increases the risk of gallstones due to hormonal changes and can result in intense pain in the upper right abdomen, nausea, vomiting, and fever.

If you experience severe or persistent rib pain, especially if accompanied by other concerning symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.


Experiencing rib pain during pregnancy can be uncomfortable, but it’s usually a normal part of the body’s adaptation to pregnancy. However, severe or persistent painshould always be evaluated by a healthcare provider to rule out more serious conditions.

With a better understanding of what causes rib pain during pregnancy, you can take steps to manage and alleviate discomfort. Remember to maintain good posture, change positions frequently, wear loose clothing, and consider gentle exercises like prenatal yoga.

But above all, listen to your body. If something feels off, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice. You know your body better than anyone else, so trust your instincts. Your priority during this special time should be to take care of yourself and your growing baby.

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