Pregnancy is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including morning sickness, fatigue, nausea, food aversions and cravings, breast tenderness, backache, headache, frequent urination, and rib pain. Rib pain is especially evident during the last trimester of pregnancy; it can be medium, dull, or sharp pain.
Some of the common causes of rib pain during pregnancy are listed below:
- A growing uterus: It is one of the most common causes of rib pain during pregnancy. Constant growth of the unborn baby causes the uterus to expand and exert increased pressure on the ribs, which is what causes the pain. Expansion in the size of the uterus also causes the muscles present between the ribs to experience increased stress and strain, leading to shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Women with slim waists or who are carrying big babies are also vulnerable to rib fracture during pregnancy.
- Bigger, heavier breasts: The breasts become heavier and become bigger by nearly 1 cup size during pregnancy. This can exert increased pressure on the rib cage, upper back, and shoulders, leading to pain in all these areas.
- Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes like elevated progesterone levels during pregnancy can also trigger rib pain. Elevated progesterone levels causes the muscles and ligaments in and around the spine and pelvic region to stretch and soften as advance preparation for childbirth. This can cause rib pain, especially during the last trimester.
- Anxiety and stress: Increased anxiety and stress is quite common during pregnancy. It can trigger a host of other symptoms such as rib pain during pregnancy, back pain, breathing difficulties, and shoulder pain.
- Increased pressure on diaphragm: Growth of uterus can also exert increased pressure on the diaphragm resulting in diaphragm pain and breathing problems. The diaphragm consists of varied nerves which can help spread the pain to the ribs and shoulders.
- Urinary tract infections: Rib pain during pregnancy can also occur due to an infection of the urinary tract. A diagnosis of UTI is more probable if the affected woman also experiences burning sensations or pain when passing urine, urination difficulties, and discomfort in the kidney area.
Treatment of rib pain during pregnancy
It is best to consult a doctor for alleviation of rib pain during pregnancy. He/she may prescribe pain killers. Patients may also follow the below listed home remedies for rib pain alleviation.
- Wear loose and comfortable clothes. Avoid ill-fitting or tight apparels.
- Breathing exercises, yoga, and other pregnancy exercises can help find relief from pain and stress.
- Heavy breasts pressure can be reduced via use of right sized supportive bra.
- Sit upright and don’t slouch. Avoid sitting for prolonged periods.
- Sleep in correct position. Sleeping on the side with rib pain can help reduce rib pain during pregnancy.
- A warm shower, use of ice packs over affected area, and gentle massages to relax affected muscles is also helpful.
- Use of pregnancy products such as belly bra, body pillow, belly support pillow, wedge belly pillow, belly support brace, lumbar support brace, lumbar seat pillow, and sacroiliac belt can help support the back and belly and ease rib pain during pregnancy.