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Breathing Easy: Hamilton Osteopaths Top Tips for Understanding and Managing Rib Pain in Pregnancy

Updated: Mar 13, 2023


Rib pain is a common complaint among pregnant people, especially during the later stages of pregnancy as the baby learns to play piano on your rib cage, with their feet. This post covers the causes of rib pain during pregnancy, how it changes over time, and what you can do to find relief.



Causes of Rib Pain During Pregnancy

Throughout your pregnancy your flexibility is likely to change. Things that don't stretch learn to stretch, and things that used to move well no longer seem to move very well at all! This is largely due to the babies growth and a hormone called relaxin.

Pregnancy rib pain. Hamilton osteopath. Preganacy osteopath. Baby Osteopath.

Postural changes

As the baby grows, your spine shape and breathing pattern will change, and this will put strain on your ribs. If the baby is sitting high, then you will certainly feel strain on your rib cage and diaphragm more so than if the baby were sitting lower. Not to mention, baby may find your ribs to be the perfect spring board at 2am!

That Hormone Relaxin

Relaxin is a hormone that is released to allow your body to stretch, which gives baby room to grow an eventually move through the pelvis and into the world. However, as relaxin effects your entire body some joints (including your ribs) will begin to move in a way they are not used to. Your muscles may then tighten as a response to this hormone. The result can be felt as pain or stiffness as your body adapts.


How Does Rib Pain Change During Pregnancy?

Rib pain may not be present in the early stages of pregnancy. As your body begins to stretch and expand, you may experience some discomfort during the second trimester. In the third trimester, your uterus continues to expand, putting additional pressure on your ribs and causing discomfort. However, as your baby shifts downwards during weeks 36-40, you may find relief from rib pain - unless your baby really loves kicking


If you're experiencing rib pain during pregnancy, there are several things you can do to find relief.

  • Wear comfortable clothing that doesn't put pressure on your ribs.

  • Use pillows to support your body while sleeping or sitting.

  • Practice good posture and avoid slouching

  • Apply heat or cold to the affected area.

  • Continue to exercise or start a gentle exercise regime.

  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing, although this will become more challenging as your pregnancy progresses!


Final Thoughts from TLC


Rib pain is fairly common amongst pregnant woman. The above information should help you worry less about it. If you have further concerns, please contact your mid wife. If you would like further help in treating or managing your rib pain then consider booking an appointment with one of our friendly osteopaths.




Darryl Jenkins TLC osteopaths Hamilton






Darryl Jenkins is a friendly Hamilton osteopath and co-owner of TLC Osteopaths. His formal qualifications include a undergraduate certificate in Exercise science from Wintec, a degree in Human Biology from Unitec, and a master's degree in osteopathy from Unitec, where he also completed his thesis on human movement assessment. He also holds a postgraduate certificate in acupuncture from AUT and would like to be pursuing the postgraduate certificate in Pain Science at Otago Uni (awaiting spouse approval).




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