Is Your Rib Hurting During Pregnancy? 7 Reasons Revealed

Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful phases of a woman’s life. The feeling of growing life within you supersedes every other feeling. Meanwhile, the whole journey of months is a delightful one, there are some downsides too. But, highs can’t be enjoyed to the fullest without a few lows, right? Rib hurting during pregnancy is one of the very few and common downsides of pregnancy.  

These pains usually start during the third trimester but can start earlier than that in some women. The reasons underlying these pains can be baby movements inside the belly, too much stretching under the ribs, excessive physical movement of the ribs, and rarely some medical condition that needs to be taken care of. This article is about those rare conditions, because what’s the harm in double-checking right? Read on to get learned! 

What are the reasons behind rib hurting during pregnancy? 

1. Gallstones 

Gallstones are hardened deposits of the digestive fluid in the gallbladder, a small organ under the liver that is responsible for the production and storage of bile. This disease is also called cholelithiasis. During pregnancy, the estrogen levels are higher than usual, which makes it difficult for the gallbladder and biliary ducts to get empty. 

Statics show that during pregnancy almost 12% of women develop gallstones and 30% of women experience biliary sludge. If the severity and size of these gallstones are high, then it can cause extreme pain in the upper abdomen and may require surgical removal. 

2. Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Usually, during their third trimester, women get susceptible to urinary tract infections because of the change in bacteria of the urinary tract. Pressure on women’s uterus can lead to difficulty in emptying it as well. Pressure on the uterus and bacterial change are factors that contribute to UTIs. 

A common symptom of UTIs is a pain in the kidneys which can feel like a sensation of pain in the ribs. If you are experiencing symptoms like burning sensation during urination, frequent urination, poor flow of urine, fever, chills, bladder, or kidney pain. 

3. Heartburn 

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Rib Hurting During Pregnancy

To get the muscles and ligaments more relaxed for the preparation of childbirth, our body produces a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin hormone is also responsible for some of the skeletal pain caused during pregnancy. This pain can be felt in areas close to the belly, like the pelvic area, oesophagus, and rib cage.

Because of the relaxation of the oesophagus, stomach acids rise more than usual, and some heartburn might occur. Women can feel this heartburn as a pain in the ribs that may start in the first trimester itself. This pain can last throughout the pregnancy. 

4. Position of the fetus 

As women advance towards the second and third trimester of the pregnancy, the body makes space for the development of the fetus by expanding the uterus upwards. As the weight and size of the fetus increases, it starts to press against the rib cage. This expansion of weight puts pressure on the abdominal muscles and rib muscles, which causes muscle aches. 

When the fetus starts changing its position to bring the head of the baby closer to the vaginal opening, which happens around the start of the second trimester, the baby’s legs point towards the rib cage. This change can put pressure on the rib cage, especially when the fetus starts kicking and moving. This pain is under the breasts where the baby is positioned. 

5. Preeclampsia  

Preeclampsia is a condition characterized by high blood pressure, which starts around the 20th week of the pregnancy and can cause serious damage to other organs of the body as well. It is a serious complication and dangerous for both the mother and the fetus. Preeclampsia can trigger serious liver pain that can be experienced near the shoulder or the bra line and severe heartburn.

Other signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include weight gain, abdominal pain in the upper quadrant, difficulty or pain in urination, too much nausea, severe headaches, malaise, eye floaters and visual problems, swelling in the face and body, protein in the urine. Some of these symptoms may pass off as normal symptoms of pregnancy but if you are experiencing extreme discomfort, it is best to consult your doctor. 

6. Constipation

Constipation, delayed bowel movements, or infrequent and hard bowel movements can lead to abdominal pain. This abdominal pain is caused and felt in the upper abdomen which is under the ribs. 

Constipation during pregnancy can be caused by hormonal changes that slow down the movement of stool resulting in a hard, and solid stool that is difficult to pass. It can also be caused by prenatal vitamins and pressure on the uterus. It can be a very uncomfortable situation during pregnancy. 

7. Pain in the round ligaments 

The groin is connected to the front of the uterus through a pair of fibrous tissues called round ligaments. Round ligament pains are sharp pains that are caused due to the strain on these muscles caused by the growth of the fetus and too much movement. It is a very common complaint among pregnant women. 

Round ligament pains can also affect the pelvic, ribs, and back area and can start any time from the early period of pregnancy to the third trimester. 

Some other complications that, although rare, can be the cause of rib pains are HELLP syndrome, or tumours (check for severe pain under the right rib). 

What to do when your rib hurt during pregnancy 

  • Some stretching exercises that can be done using an exercise ball, like back and chest stretching along with a few other exercises can help in easing rib and back pain
  • Less severe rib pains can be relieved by using heat pads. Just make sure that the heating pad is not too hot, or you may end up burning your skin. 
  • Don’t wear tight and uncomfortable clothes. Especially, tight bras can be restrictive and cause bad pregnancy aches. 
  • Consult a chiropractor to relieve musculoskeletal pain. Some chiropractors specialize in pregnancy and can suggest relevant postural changes and beneficial exercises. 
  • Practising yoga can relieve multiple types of pains like ribs, joints, and back. Yoga is also very helpful for the overall well-being of a woman and her baby’s health. 

You will be glad to know that there are many, many treatments for every single condition that we talked about today. Just a little work from your side will relieve you of all those annoying pains. Hope we did our job well, and if you are experiencing any of these pains, time to get to work!

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