Rib pain is a common feature of pregnancy. Having had it during both of my pregnancies, I know just how uncomfortable it can be.
It usually starts in the 3rd trimester, but it can begin earlier if your bump is large. The ribcage has to greatly expand as your pregnancy progresses to make room for your growing uterus and to maintain your lung capacity. This expansion pressure on the ribs can manifest as pain and can be really aggravated by baby kicks (or punches) into the already aching area.
Rib pain is usually aggravated by sitting, and especially if you then lean forwards. It is common to feel it on just one side.
Most women will get relief by changing their position, but unfortunately short term relief is all you can hope for, until the end of the pregnancy when the baby’s head engages. Once baby drops in preparation for the birth, your ribs will be noticeably less painful.
In the meantime, you can certainly try these tips to help rib pain:
Avoid tight fitting clothes which can add to the discomfort
  • When you have to sit, try to sit straight and avoid leaning forward
  • Practice deep breathing exercises to stretch your rib cage – inhale deeply through the nose, hold it for three seconds and exhale out of the mouth. Repeat five times every few hours.
  • Try hot or cold packs over the ribs and see which works best to ease the pain (don’t apply on your bump, just the rib cage)
  • Swimming to stretch out your body
If none of the tips above help, it can be useful to visit your Chartered Physiotherapist who can work on your upper back (thoracic spine), and guide you through some specific stretches to open out the rib cage area to relieve some pressure.
Please note:
If you have pain or any concerns while pregnant, please report them to your GP or obstetrician ASAP. Do not suffer in silence. If in doubt, get it checked out. Not all aches and pains are part of being pregnant and it is important to resolve any issues that are affecting your ability to go about your daily business. Don’t leave it until your baby is born, you’ll have enough to do then!
Physiotherapist & Pilates Instructor