Rib Pain during Pregnancy

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Terrible rib pain on my bra strap line

Aug 2006

I wonder if anyone else has had this problem. I'm currently 37 weeks pregnant, and ever since Month 7, I've had terrible pain right on my bra strap line where my breasts meet my ribcage. Right now there's a lot of weight there and not much room. My breasts have gotten huge (I'm wearing an F cup now - yikes!), and my uterus comes up to right below my breasts and is pushing on my ribcage. I'm wearing a maternity bra that a professional fitter picked out for me back when the pain started, and from what I can tell, the bra fits correctly. But the pain doesn't go away, no matter what I do. It's excrutiating to wear the bra, and it's excrutiating to go without it. Also as the day goes on I get severe pains in my right ribs. The only thing that seems to help is lying on my left side. Other than that, I've resorted to keeping an ice pack in my bra during the day, now that I'm not going into my office anymore!

Has anyone else experienced this kind of pain, and if so, was there anything you did that helped? I'm hoping that once the baby drops or is born, the pain will go away, but I'm worried that if my breasts stay this big, the pain is going to stay too. I guess I can tough it out for 3 more weeks, but I can't imagine going through a year of nursing like this. Help! Counting down the days...

I recognize that! I had bad rib pain, starting around 35 weeks. It was only bearable when I stayed in my sleeping bra and pajamas all day--until I discovered wearing my nursing bra on the widest setting. Maybe the band is too tight on your current maternity bra? My pain diminished a LOT when the baby dropped out of my rib cage, and was completely gone once she was born. Several months later, my ribs have shrunk back most of the way to their original place. Though I suspect that I'm still a bra band size larger than I was pre-pregnancy. As for large breasts--I've had those since puberty, and they never hurt my ribcage when I was wearing a good bra. If the weight of your breasts is making your bra hurt, you need a better bra. Period. Pregnancy or no pregnancy --glad the baby is out of my rib cage
I now have a 3 month old and experienced this for about the entire third trimester and know two other women who experienced it as well! I don't think I was overly endowed (size D during pregnancy) but for awhile felt like the underwire was rubbing it raw or something. I did ask my OB about it - I don't remember her answer but I remember it was something I ruled out eventually (and I had a great OB). So I hope you get responses more definitive than this, but do know that it caused absolutely no complications and passes with birth (or maybe my mind is just on other things). No More Ribpain
Pain on the right side of your body, around the shoulder or the rib cage, during the last trimester can be a sign of preeclampsia and can be very very serious!! Talk to your doctor immediately!!!! Read more here: http://www.preeclampsia.org/symptoms.asp
ooh! I feel your pain- or rather, I felt it- About 7 months into my pregnancy the same thing happened- I ended up getting a large ace wrap, some paper tape, and every night I would wrap it around my ribs and tape it on (I did not want to sleep with those sharp things!)- Labor was painful at that spot- I used one of those pillow things you heat in the microwave and held it against that spot- It was ALL gone once my daughter was born- turns out it was her foot that got stuck in between 2 ribs and it was not going to get unstuck until she got out!! Good luck- hope you find some relief- deirdre
Yuck! I had the same thing (and the same jumbo sized breasts). I found that spending an hour at the pool swimming really helped because it was the one place that I was weightless and could stretch out my muscles. Someone told me that your rib cage actually expands to accommodate your larger pregnancy size - makes sense to me, but boy does it hurt Hang in there!
Sorry I can't offer any specific advice, but know that you're not alone! I could have written your post. I'm 36 weeks today and have had the same pain for some time. This is my third pregnancy and I seem to recall experiencing something similar with the earlier ones. The pain makes it v. hard to sleep well -- if at all! Like you, I was fitted for a new bra, which I simply must wear. But even without (at night) the discomfort is still there to some degree. I keep thinking it must have something to do with the uterus pushing internal organs around and this is putting pressure on the rib cage/hitting nerves/?. My pain is most prevalent on the right side. At any rate, if I recall correctly, this will resolve as soon as the baby is born, so hang in there! Almost there
Pregnancy often causes rib cage problems like the one you're having. Since your body is making relaxin to prepare for delivery, all your ligaments are softer, and your ribs can be pushed out of place by your baby kicking, the constant pressure from your bra strap, or even just a brisk cough. Having the ribs ''adjusted'' by a chiropractor is an easy and safe way to try to solve this problem. I have had success with this on many occasions, but not all. Because the relaxin is present for another 6 months, this can be a difficult problem to treat, but you will have better luck with a physical approach than a ''hands off'' approach. If you are near downtown Berkeley, I specialize in caring for pregnant and post-partum women. Or you can find other family-oriented chiropractors at: http://www.icpa4kids.com/locator/index.htm Elon
I am a Women's Health physical therapist with a specialty in pre and postnatal women. Rib, breast, and mid-back pain are very common in pregnancy due to postural & structural changes. Factors like fluid retention, weight gain, hormonal changes, enlarged breast mass, and postural dysfunction all play a role in this discomfort. Slouching cramps the ribs and the rib position also changes during pregnancy. Some of these contributing factors can be addressed. Feel free to contact me at my office if you would like to come in for treatment. I have worked with many women throughout their pregnancies. A combination of soft tissue work, gentle mobilizations, postural training, Pilates, and support/kinesiotape can be very effective. Suzanne
I also had terrible rib and chest pain on the right side when I was pregnant six years ago. My sense was that the pain was caused mostly by my daughter pressing my diaphragm up against my rib cage. I think my mother mentioned that I bruised her ribs when she was pregnant with me. Anyhow, I am sorry I can't offer any advice to make it better now, but I can say that it did get better after I gave birth and things started moving back into their normal places. I can't remember now how long it took, but not too long. Good luck! lisa
I had similar pain in my first pregnancy and we could never quite figure out what it was. My OB suggested that my baby was pressing against a nerve ganglion and the pain was referring to my back. I was a student at Cal at the time, carrying a big backpack of books, walking to and fro, etc. I would often get home, lay down on the bed, and cry. It was awful. What helped was wearing tight tank tops instead of bras; the bra band around my ribs put more pressure on my back and made the pain worsen.

The joy was that immediately after birth, the pain disappeared. Like less than 30 minutes later. It was amazing. I felt so good postpartum! Hopefully you will have the same result. Good luck to you and hang in there Laurel

Go see a chiropractor. You may have a separated rib (like my friend did when she was pregnant) or another problem that a chiro could easily help you with and relieve your pain Anon
I had severe pain right around my breastbone/upper rib cage (under the bra band) when I was pregnant with twins. I can't remember exactly when it started, but I also had a professionally fit bra and it still hurt like hell (it did help support my F size boobs though!). For me, taking the bra off was the only thing that helped with the pain; I even resorted to taking my bra off at work a few times, when I was working on my own most of the time. The pain lessened when I went braless, but not very convenient. In any case, the pain did go away. My twins are six months old now and I honestly can't remember when the pain stopped (the first few months after the babies were born are a fog to me...), but I'm sure that I did not have breastbone or rib cage pain after the babies were born. In fact, I think it went away before they were born.

Sorry I don't have much advice for how to deal with the pain, but I can at least tell you that if it's anything like what I was going through it will go away on its own. Good luck! been there too!

I had this problem during my twin pregnancy. Sometimes I could barely face getting out of bed because it hurt so much to wear clothes. My doctor looked at me blankly. My cousin, a breast cancer survivor who had had a lumpectomy told me to tear up an old sheet (any soft thin cloth will do) and put it where it hurt between me and my bra. It worked like a charm, immediately anon

Rib pain just below the breasts

Sept 2004

Hi, I am 27 weeks pregnant. For past one week, I have been having rib pain - especially by the evenign everyday. It initially started in the center - just below breasts. Theextended towards the left side and now even to the right side. My OB told me its becasue of the growing baby - as ribs are being pushed. I was told to have pain killers if it gets uncomfortable. Has anyone experienced such problems? I want to avoid painkillers as much as I can. Thanks for your advice! Sudha

Oh yeah, I totally know about this! I'm the person who posted about mid- back pain on the last Advice newsletter. My pain is also in the front, in the center/left, right under the breasts. My OB has prescribed physical therapy which I just started this week. (She had this kind of pain with one of her pregnancies and was aided by PT.) The therapist says because of the prolactin and moving organs, a rib has been moved out of place and needs to be moved back. Since I'm preggers, he can't simply whack it back in as he can for non-preg people. So, massage and water therapy is the plan. My advice, get thee to a PT (hopefully your insurance will cover it; your doctor can prescribe it as a medical necessity). I'm going to Physical Therapy Innovations in Albany, and seeing Allan Ling). Good luck!
Hi Sudha- Rib pain is common during pregnancy. There are rib belts you can get through a medical supplier to help support the area (re- imbursable through most insurance companies if your doctor writes the prescription--if you would like a reference just drop me an e-mail). But your OB is right about the ribs rotating and expanding to the side to accommodate the growing baby. There are some Yoga postures and breath work you can do as well as pilates breath work and strengthening to help to support the ribs. Seek out a class close to you that deals with pre-natal post partum stuff. There are lots of listings on BPN site. Your body is constantly changing now...every day! And every day your muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones have to try to accommodate to the changes. Take good care of yourself. Kelli Manring, PT, MSPT Doula, Pilates Instructor
It could likely be the babies position and also that your belly is stretching and your ribs are also trying to stretch. There are muscles between each rib called ''intercostals''. You likely have tight intercostals, at least in that area. You might try getting a massage with someone who can gently get inbetween the ribs and help loosen those muscles a bit. It shouldn't take much. Also some breathing exercises that expand the ribcage could be helpful. I am a massage therapist with an office in Berkeley. I have experience working with pregnant women and also many injuries and chronic problems. I'd be happy to see you, or give you referrals. e-mail me if you're interested, and good luck finding relief. June Kamerling,NCTMB
Sudha - It sounds like this is what I had w/ both my pregnancies, so I can at least empathize! The only solution the doc's really offered was vicodin. I tried to avoid it but did take a couple of tabs in each pregnancy. Things that helped most were hanging out in a hot tub (at about 99 degrees) or warm pool, sleeping and sitting in a recliner (i bought the recliner when the pain started in the 2nd pregnancy - it was soooo worth it!)(1st pregnancy i slept on a futon, as a couch, so it supported my back when i was on my side), and resting as much as possible. i also wore a back support belt and took lots of tylenol. I'm happy to talk to you more about this by email or phone, if to offer moral support if nothing else! it know it's tough.
I had rib pain with both of my pregnancies, but it was never so bad that I felt I needed painkillers. It helped to pay more attention to my posture, especially when sitting at my computer for long periods, and to stretch often. Holly

Intense pain on my right side, in my ribs

March 2003

I am several months pregnant and am having intense pain on my right side -- at about where my bra fastens across my body. The pain seems to be in my ribs, though there is also back pain as well. It is quite debilitating and is not the usual lower back/mid-back pain one gets during pregnancy. It's not my gallbladder, and it's not a kidney infection (two things my doctor thought it was, but has now ruled out). I also tried one of those belly slings, but that only made things worse. My doctor can't figure out what is going on and has encouraged me to take pain killers, which I really don't want to do, even though he says they will be safe for the baby. Has anyone out there experienced something similar? This is very frustrating -- and depressing -- because the pain is unbelievable -- I cry almost daily with it. I can't really concentrate or do anything but lie in a certain position to get relief. I'd love to know what is going on. I'm on Kaiser, and my doctor refuses to refer me to physical therapy or to a physiatrist. I feel if I could go to him with a possible diagnosis, I might get somewhere. Thanks so much -- Mom in Pain

I know you said this doctor has ruled out gallstones...but your pain sounds so exactly like my gallstone pain that I must encourage you to get a second opinion. The pain was incredible, just as you describe, and right where you said it was. Anyhow, if the doc at Kaiser is giving you trouble about referrals, just go to the emergency room when the pain is bad and you feel like you can't move. I did. You really must get attention, and you will find supportive, caring people there. anon
in response to your rib/back pain complaints, i am writing to you as someone who experienced the same exact pain around the ribs and as a chiropractor who takes care of this sort of issue regularly- i don't blame you for not wanting to take pain killers; that outraged me! you are experiencing this pain because your rib cage is increasing in width, accomodating for the baby-with this increase in diameter,the nerves within this area are being stretched- this is why you are feeling the way you are- what i did while i was pregnant and recommend to my current prenatal patients is: regular chiropractic care, massage and a combo of yoga and pilates to increase the room in the torso-that really seems to take the edge off of the pain and promotes the much needed relaxation! i would be more than happy to talk about this further with you or recommend a chiropractor close by to you who could help you- helaine