With your muscles and skin stretching and growing along-side your uterus, it’s no wonder you start to experience pain in surrounding areas such as your rib cage. With the pressure in your chest and ribs increasing due to the ever-growing baby, it can cause pain and also a feeling of being short of breath.
With a growing baby, your uterus is expanding. This places a ligament known as the round ligament under increasing strain, but it’s strain it is designed to cope with. Sometimes though, this round ligament can cause irritation and that can lead to rib pain due to the location of the ligament attachments. The ever-increasing need to support the uterus means that rib pain is more common as pregnancy progresses.
With reflux and morning sickness being a common occurrence in the first trimester, it is pretty common for the surrounding tissues to tighten up including the muscles between each of your ribs. The muscles can become restricted and strained, especially these intercostal muscles that sit in between your ribs. Just think about the movement in your rib-cage that takes place when you experience reflux or vomiting. It’s really forceful and often repeated. The muscles can compress and tighten up the rib-cage. This can lead to rib pain when you straighten back up, and alternatively even difficulty breathing!
There are a couple of contributing factors that can play a part in causing difficulty in taking breaths. This can be especially prominent in the second and third trimester, as the baby’s growth continues to accelerate and the pressure increases which may have you short of breath.
In the same fashion and back pain and pelvic pain, the hormone relaxin can also play a role in your rib pain! As the joints and muscles loosen there’s added stress, and this can cause discomfort. The other thing to remember is that some hormones released during pregnancy can also influence your heart and breathing, which can lead to the feeling of shortness of breath.
But also! Don’t forget that outside of the hormones during pregnancy, you’re also growing a person! That takes up space in your abdomen. The bigger bub grows the less space there is for your other organs. Bub can end up pressing against the diaphragm, the biggest muscle we use in breathing. This can make it feel like it’s hard to take a full breath as there’s less space for the muscle and your lungs to expand. Bub can also press into your ribs – not just when they’re kicking either. This added stress can lead to your pain and discomfort.
With the challenge of getting enough quality sleep increasing as the weeks go along. We’ve got some recommendations to help manage the pain a little better for when you sleep. It is so important to get good rest, both for yourself and your baby.
A long pillow, specially for pregnancy such as this one:
A pillow like this can provide good support for the belly and the rib-cage while you sleep. This will take the load of your muscles and decrease the strain that you may be experiencing.
Once again as the pressure builds inside your body as more room is taken up by baby, pain underneath your ribs may develop. This can be due to a number of causes including pressure on your diaphragm, stretching of your abdomen, compression of your organs as baby gets priority for space inside, and also referred pain from the load increasing on your spine. The pain may be sharp and piercing or a dull ache. Either way it can often be treated so don’t put up with it!
The good news here is the feeling of nerve pain in the ribs during pregnancy is often not nerve pain, but irritation of other ribcage tissues that nerves are detecting as the case. Sometimes baby can give you a good kick in the ribs but this is usually a good sign simply becasue baby is more likely to be head done rather than breech (head up). A description of nerve pain can also be due to overstretching of tissues as baby takes up more room in utero, and also from spinal stiffness causing a referred pain around the chest wall into the ribs. You may also be experiencing a feeling of being short of breath. Nerve issues or compression of nerves are more commonly felt as numbness or tingling rather than pain.
It’s no wonder this rib pain increases as pregnancy progresses. Your ribcage is being asked to stretch further than it has before, your mobility is often starting to be compromised (if it hasn’t been already) and your
Rib pain might not seem like a big deal, but it’s definitely something worth getting checked by your health professional. The number one reason being that you shouldn’t have to put up with pain if there are ways to manage it, and the other we want to make sure nothing else more serious is going on!
Some of the conditions and area of the body that can cause or refer pain to the ribs or shortness of breath include:
But not to worry! We are here to help at Boroondara Osteopathy!
If this is not your first time being pregnant, and you have other little ones around, on top of the exhaustion, your ribs may start to play up too! With having to bend down to pick toys up and picking the little one up yourself, it’s no wonder the muscles begin to tighten up! The constant bending and consequential compression of the rib cage can leave you feeling sore and restricted.
Osteopathy during pregnancy is all about reducing strain on a body by improving muscle tension, joint mobility and body balance. We look to see where you are out of alignment to create ways for you to manage your body during this time and maintain your mobility to not only aide your day-to-day, but also for birthing Your pelvis and spine benefit from good mobility for baby to enter the world. We will teach you strategies to assist this.