Rib Pain? Really?

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You knew pregnancy would prompt many unfamiliar sensations and changes to your body. Rib pain, however, is one symptom you may not have been prepared for.

If you speak with other new or expectant mothers, you’ll likely find that rib discomfort during pregnancy is quite common. Your friends may tell you they experienced an unpleasant sensation, such as a feeling of the ribs being pressed upward on one or both sides of the abdomen, or heartburn related to the increased pressure on the stomach. Rib pain and associated symptoms typically occur during the third trimester.

What’s Going On?

For many expectant mothers, rib pain is linked with other pregnancy-related physical changes, including the expansion of the uterus. As the womb grows to accommodate the baby, it balloons upward and presses against the undersides of the ribs; the rib cage itself also expands accordingly to create space for the larger uterus. Rib pain can also result from a downward force: the increased weight of the breasts on the rib cage. In certain cases, the soft tissues attached to and located between the ribs can become inflamed, causing discomfort.

In Search of Relief

Is the pain you’re feeling simply a reminder that a little bundle of joy is growing inside you? Possibly. As the baby moves and stretches, he or she may push his or her feet upward beneath your rib cage, causing discomfort and pressure in the stomach and chest, and occasionally, shortness of breath.

Don’t let rib pain alarm you — while annoying, it’s not typically a threat to your health or your baby’s. What can you do to curb the unpleasantness? These tips may help:

Consult your obstetrician. Your physician can recommend medication to help you cope with the discomfort.

Dress comfortably. Clothes that hug your figure could worsen rib pain. Choose loose-fitting garments that won’t add to the pressure your ribs are already feeling. Set the underwire aside, and invest in a comfortable nursing bra you can wear now.

Reach for the sky. Standing and slowly stretching your arms over your head unfolds your body and may temporarily relieve pressure on the ribs. Stretching also loosens stiff muscles around the ribs.

Sit up. Sitting compresses the abdomen, creating even less room for the ribs and uterus. When sitting, experiment with posture to find the position that feels best to you. You’ll probably discover that sitting up straight and using elevated armrests provides the most relief.

Rib pain can be discouraging, but it’s typically temporary. As you get closer to your due date, the discomfort may begin to recede as your baby moves into position for birth.

Have you picked a pediatrician? Meet Alan Brown, M.D., and Bird Gilmartin, M.D., board-certified Pediatricians in Evanston who provide super care for your super kid

Drs. Brown and Gilmartin are members of the medical staff at Evanston Regional Hospital.