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27th May 2024

Three reasons your ribs hurt during pregnancy – and ways to prevent it

Sophie Collins

ribs pain, pregnancy

Pregnancy comes with a whole host of discomforts ranging in types and degrees of pain.

One of the most common of which is rib pain. This is especially common during the third trimester (weeks 28 to 40).

It occurs during pregnancy due to the changes happening to your body that can make this type of pain more likely.

Here are some of the most common causes:

Baby is getting bigger

As your baby grows and takes up extra space inside you, you can develop twinges of rib pain.

This is because as they grow, it can reduce your rib movement and lead to stiffness and pain.

Heartburn, acid reflux and indigestion

Heartburn, acid reflux and indigestion can give you rib pain during pregnancy. 

This is because your baby is putting pressure on your stomach.

Pregnancy hormones also relax the muscles around your oesophagus (food pipe).

Urinary tract infection

Rib pain, particularly in your lower ribs at the front or the back, can be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI).

You should contact your GP if you have:

  • pain when passing urine (peeing)
  • cloudy or smelly pee
  • blood in the urine
  • a high temperature
  • burning or stinging feeling when peeing

Preventing rib pain in pregnancy

  • Sitting up straight with your head up and shoulders back reduces your risk of rib pain. It also reduces pain in your upper back and neck.
  • Wear a properly-fitted and supportive bra and avoid underwire. It might be worth getting a nursing bra that you can wear after your baby is born.
  • Pregnancy yoga and Pilates helps improve posture, strength and flexibility.
  • Deep breathing exercises during the day may help, as well as before bedtime. Try using a few pillows at bedtime to help you get comfortable.

The HSE also recommends a list of different stretches that can relieve the pain, which can be found here.