When I was pregnant for the first time, I was prepared for all sorts of discomforts. I was not, however, prepared to experience a fractured rib due to being kicked, (from the inside,) by my own, growing fetus.
Rib pain, particularly on the right side, is not uncommon during pregnancy. The intensity of the pain varies, ranging from a dull ache to a sharp stabbing pain. As your pregnancy progresses, your body produces a hormone called relaxin (not kidding, I didn’t make that up.) This hormone allows your ligaments to stretch, in your abdominal area and your hips to allow room for the baby to grow and pass through your birth canal. Actually all your ligaments become more elastic, so you may feel like your limbs aren’t attached properly. Remember when you used to play with your Barbie dolls and you could pop the legs out of their sockets? It kind of feels like that.
So, as your uterus expands, the ligaments in your rib cage stretch, and the baby in your uterus pushes against the rib cage walls. Your rib cage is not only making room for the baby, but also expanding to create more room to allow your lungs, which are now squished upwards, to expand and contract. You may even feel short of breath due to decreased area available for your internal organs. Your breasts will also enlarge, pulling your shoulders forward and putting strain on your back muscles, and making you slouch.
This pain can feel the worst in a slouching/sitting position, so be sure to sit up as straight as you can. Slouching will compress your abdominal cavity, creating more discomfort. Wear loose fitting clothing, and a properly sized bra (avoid under-wires.) If your discomfort keeps you from being able to breathe, or sleep at night, speak to your physician. Depending on how far along you are, they may allow something stronger than Tylenol, as my doctor did.
In extreme cases, (like mine,) the baby can kick you hard enough from the inside to bruise or fracture a rib. Remember in cartoons, when Sylvester gets hit really hard and a ring of stars circles his head? Well, it’s true: I literally saw stars when Reicher kicked me and fractured my rib. I was only 32 weeks pregnant. The worst part was my rib cage couldn’t heal, it just kept expanding, and the pain got worse and worse. There really isn’t anything I could do for the pain except try to find the most comfortable position, and stay in it! By the time I was 37 weeks, the pain was so bad that I couldn’t find any position in which I could sleep, my OB finally put me on Vicodin. She said by 37 weeks, the baby was fully cooked and it was time to get me out of my misery.
When I went into labor, got an epidural, and I wasn’t in pain anymore; I literally fell asleep for three straight hours, sleeping through the first half of my dilation!
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