5 Quick Ways to Reduce that Pesky Rib Pain During Pregnancy

Updated on April 19, 2016

Astonishing Aches and Pains During Pregnancy

If you're like me (and I'm assuming you are if you're here), you're somewhere in that grand ole late second trimester/early third trimester range of your pregnancy where you're starting to feel aches and pains you never dreamed were possible. Since you can't really pop pain pills or anti-inflammatories like you could before you were pregnant—and most of these pains wouldn't be helped even if you could—you've probably just started to accept the discomfort as an unavoidable part of being a baby-making machine.

But you have to draw the line somewhere, don't you? The one pain I really can't ignore is the sharp pain I've been feeling right below my breast, seemingly from my ribs. I was able to ignore it for a few weeks before it got too bad, but after awhile I caved and started looking for help.

This is what I found.

Why are you feeling this pain?

Well, once you've ruled out any gallbladder issues, there are only a couple other things that may be causing your pain: the baby growing inside you and your suddenly voluptuous chest.

First of all, you might be enjoying those few extra cup sizes, but think of how much added weight they've put on your ribs in such a sort period of time. That, along with the fact that your uterus is growing daily and adding pressure from inside is enough to make any rib cry uncle. The fundus (the top of your uterus) is pushing up, applying new pressure from the inside, not to mention the baby's occasional well-aimed kick or punch. Your ribs are shifting and the muscles in between your ribs is stretching to make room for the little one. Ouch. The fundus reaches its peak at around 36 weeks, at which point the baby drops down to the pelvic cavity to get ready for birth. That will give relief for the rib pain, but the added pressure of your breasts will still weigh on you.

So what can you do?

When pregnant, it may be time for some new clothes.
When pregnant, it may be time for some new clothes.

#1 No Tight Clothes

As your body is changing, it's a daily battle to find clothes that both fit and make you feel like you're still just as beautiful as you were before (believe me, you are). Some days you try to wriggle your way into an old favorite top and others you just give up and slap on some sweats. By wearing those old shirts, you're just adding to the pressure your ribs are feeling from everything else. Give yourself a break! Rule #1 will relieve you of this pressure. It might be time to invest in some maternity wear that's comfortable and actually lets you breathe.

When pregnant, take care of yourself and learn to relax.
When pregnant, take care of yourself and learn to relax.

#2 Move Like a Pregnant Lady

Just like it might be time to start dressing like a pregnant woman, now is the time to start moving like one, too. (Don't worry—you can go back to your old clothes and slouchy ways soon but for now, it's time to get serious.)

  • Stop slouching. If you sit up straight and don't hunch over, you'll lift your ribcage up and create more room for the growing baby.
  • Don't sit for too long. If you must sit, get up often and go for a walk or stretch. Lift your arms up over your head and lean back in your chair. Remember to roll your shoulders up and back.
  • If you must sit, experiment with positions. You'll find that certain angles push the fundus up higher than others. Your favorite chair might not be your favorite anymore, so push it aside and find another that accommodates your new shape for the next several months.

When pregnant, pillows are your best friends.
When pregnant, pillows are your best friends.

#3 Body Pillows and Cushions

Why suffer when all you need is a little support? You need to prop yourself up. Grab some pillows and stuff them wherever you need them. It might be a good idea to grab a body pillow if you don't already have one. There are plenty out there on the market specifically for pregnant women, but you can probably get by with a regular one as long as it's long enough so you can rest your breasts and belly on it and it'll still fit between your legs (you've gotta help that back, too).

#4 Get a New Bra (and One For Sleeping)

I kept hearing that your breasts were the first thing to change during pregnancy, and that way before they were forking out money for maternity clothes, other pregnant women were running to the store to grab bigger bras. I personally hadn't given two thoughts about my bras. Since they still seemed to fit, I just kept on putting on those Victoria's Secret ones I had bought just before I found out I was pregnant.

Wrong move. I finally caved in and got sized. I was a 36 B before and now, I'm 38 D! No wonder my ribs ached: my bra was doing nothing to help. The moral of the story is to just let them measure you. If you're weirded-out by the idea like I was, it'll be over in a second, and believe me, the relief is worth it.

A few other things to think about when getting your new bra: find one with plenty of support, no underwire (again, added pressure), and perhaps consider one of the nursing bras (you'll need it soon enough).

While I was there they were having a sale, so I went ahead and got two sleeper bras just out of curiosity. I was skeptical about whether or not they'd actually help, but I can tell you they do. They're light enough so you can sleep comfortably, but they give just enough support to help you move.

#5 Learn to be Laid-Back

Yes, there are things you can do to make yourself more comfortable, but the only way to get rid of this pain is by giving birth, so in the meantime, give yourself a break.

If you're used to sitting up straight or even leaning forward all of the time, try to break yourself of that habit. All you're doing is scrunching yourself up and forcing your body to conform to a much smaller space than it needs to (plus it puts all your breast weight on one spot rather than letting it spread out). Whenever you have the option to lean back, go ahead and do so. Hell, go crazy and add some pillows where you need them. Why not get a heart-shaped box of chocolates, while you're at it? And how about a foot rub?

These are just ways I've personally gotten over the pain (for the most part), so if you have any suggestions, go ahead and leave them below. I hope it helps!

Video: Stretching Ribs During Pregnancy


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    • profile image

      Philile 7 months ago

      I have asharppain on my righribs Ami pregnant

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      Sade 21 months ago

      Ooomg i had this pain under my left rib cage. When i went to the doc they kept telling me it was my baby but the pain stayed in one place and never moved. When i soaked in a hot bath or warm shower it would feel great. Even when i put ice or a cold compress it would feel good but after dealing for a few weeks i finally figured out that it was my bra!!! It wasnt even on the bra-line like you would expect it to be. I never changed my bras i mean, i got a few bigger sizes but i put on a sports bra one day and after a few minutes instant relief !!! I was kinda upset that after all of that pain it took me so long to realize it was something as simple as a bra. But like i said it was below my ribcage not on the bra-line so.....good luck!!!

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      fat 2 years ago

      Iam 15 weeks pregnant now..I feel so much pain in my right side rib below the chest area..some times its like pinching pain ..even i cant sleep on my right side sometimes..This pain started in my 13week only..sometimes it comes and somedays it not..Firstly i thought it was a gastric pain ..please any one help me why dis pain comes and suggest me any remedies..

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      Jennifer 2 years ago

      Am thirteen weeks i also feeling same and it hurts

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      charmaine connell 2 years ago

      Iam 6 months pregnant now I feel some serious pain under my left ribs.especially at nights while I am sleeping. I wake up with terrible pain. It even get worst when iam getting up.I think I am now going to try sleeping with an ice pack underneath my rib.will let you know what happen next

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      Isabel 3 years ago

      I'm only 18 weeks and I'm having terrible pains under my right side rib cage. Does anyone know how to get rid of the pain? it just started today. It woke me up around 1 am, it hurts to the point that I can't even lay on my right side.

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      isabel 3 years ago

      I'm only 18 weeks and I'm having terrible pains under my right side rib cage. Does anyone know how to get rid of the pain? it just started today. It woke me up around 1 am, it hurts to the point that I can't even lay on my right side.

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      Natasha 3 years ago

      I just started getting these horrendous pains I am 26 weeks. I mostly get them at night, the pain wakes me up usually around 3am when I am in deep sleep. It makes me sweat tremendously. We kind of found a way to ease some pain. My husband will rub my back and grab an ice cold cloth put it on my head and neck. And jump into a cold bath when I have the strength to get up. And than make the bath a little warmer. Hopefully this helps some pregnant ladies out there!

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      tavitsre 3 years ago

      Not a good idea to spend too much time leaning back if you want the baby to be in a good position though

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      Roza L 3 years ago

      I had this pain in my first pregnancy and other than not sitting down for long, I could not do anything to help it. Even a physiotherapist could not come up with anything.

      Luckily in my second pregnancy, I worked out that what helped a lot was, when sitting down (which is when I had the problem) to press my back against something sticking out from the back of the chair. On my commute to work on the train I would fold my jacket up and lean against it or, at work, I would use a wobble cushion (google it) to lean back against.