Tailbone Pain After Birth: Causes and Relief Strategies

Apr 26, 2024 | 5 min read

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Experiencing tailbone pain after childbirth, known as coccydynia, affects a significant number of new mothers due to prolonged labor, the use of forceps, and the baby's position during delivery

Managing this condition is crucial not only for the mother's comfort but also for her overall recovery and ability to care for her newborn.

tailbone pain after birth

Understanding Coccydynia After Childbirth

What is Coccydynia?

Coccydynia is a medical term that describes pain in the tailbone, or coccyx, which can occur for various reasons, including childbirth. This condition is more common than many expect, affecting a significant number of women postpartum. 

The pain can vary from mild discomfort to severe, affecting daily activities and the overall postpartum recovery process.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, women are five times more likely to experience coccydynia than men, highlighting the particular vulnerability of women to this condition postpartum.

Causes of Tailbone Pain Post-Delivery

Childbirth is a miraculous yet physically demanding process that can lead to various injuries, including those to the tailbone. During delivery, especially in cases of a prolonged or complicated birth, the tailbone can be subjected to stress, pressure, or trauma. Here are some ways childbirth can lead to tailbone injuries:

  • Positioning of the Baby: A baby positioned head-first in the birth canal can exert significant pressure on the tailbone.
  • Use of Instruments: The use of forceps or vacuum devices to assist the delivery can increase the risk of tailbone injuries.
  • Labor Duration and Type: A long, difficult labor, or one that involves a lot of pushing, can strain the coccyx.

Additionally, tailbone pain can also occur during pregnancy due to hormonal changes and weight distribution. The body releases a hormone called relaxin, which loosens ligaments in the pelvic area to prepare for childbirth. This loosening can destabilize the tailbone, causing discomfort that may continue into the postpartum period.

Symptoms of Postpartum Tailbone Pain

Identifying the symptoms of coccydynia is crucial for new mothers to differentiate it from general postpartum discomforts. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain when sitting down or standing up from a seated position.
  • Discomfort when leaning back while seated.
  • A sharp or dull ache in the tailbone area, which may radiate to the hips or back.
  • Increased pain during bowel movements or sexual activity.

These symptoms can significantly impact a new mother's ability to care for her newborn and herself, underscoring the importance of recognizing and addressing them early. 

For a comprehensive understanding of your symptoms, consider using an online tool like the Symptom Checker for Women as a preliminary step before consulting a healthcare professional.

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Diagnosing Coccydynia

Professional Diagnosis

The process of diagnosing postpartum tailbone pain involves a comprehensive examination to rule out other causes of tailbone pain and may include both non-invasive and invasive methods. 

A healthcare professional may perform a physical exam, focusing on the tailbone area, and ask about the woman's childbirth experience and symptoms.

In some cases, imaging tests like X-rays or MRI scans may be used to get a clearer view of the coccyx and assess any potential injuries.

When to Seek Medical Advice

It's essential for new mothers experiencing tailbone pain after birth to seek medical advice, especially if the pain persists, worsens, or significantly impacts daily life. Symptoms that warrant a professional diagnosis include:

  • Persistent or severe pain in the tailbone area.
  • Pain that interferes with sitting, walking, or caring for your newborn.
  • Discomfort that does not improve with home treatment after a few weeks.

Treatment for Tailbone Pain After Birth

Home Remedies and Self-Care

Recovering from tailbone pain after giving birth can be a gradual process. Incorporating some home remedies and self-care practices can significantly alleviate discomfort. Here are several effective strategies:

  • Use a Donut or Wedge Cushion: Sitting on a cushion that relieves pressure from the coccyx can make a big difference. Choose a donut-shaped or a wedge cushion with a cutout at the back.
  • Sitz Baths: Regular sitz baths help reduce inflammation and soothe pain in the tailbone area. Aim for 15-20 minutes a few times a day, especially after bowel movements.
  • Cold and Heat Therapy: Apply ice packs to the affected area for the first few days post-delivery to reduce swelling, followed by warm compresses to ease muscle tension.
  • Gentle Stretching: Engage in gentle stretching exercises designed to relax the pelvic floor and spinal muscles without putting additional strain on the tailbone.
  • Proper Posture: Maintain proper posture while sitting and standing to reduce the strain on your coccyx. Avoid sitting for long periods, and when you do, ensure your back is straight and well-supported.

Medical Interventions

When home remedies are not enough to relieve tailbone pain after birth, it may be time to consider medical interventions:

  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can design a personalized program to strengthen the pelvic floor, improve posture, and relieve coccyx pain.
  • Medications: While specific names of medications are not mentioned, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be recommended to manage pain and inflammation. Always consult a healthcare provider before taking any medication.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: For persistent pain, corticosteroid injections into the coccyx area can reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Surgery: In rare cases where other treatments have not provided relief, surgery to remove part or all of the coccyx may be considered. This option carries risks and should be discussed thoroughly with a healthcare provider.

Consulting with a healthcare provider is crucial to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your specific situation.

Recovery Time and What to Expect

Recovery from tailbone pain after birth can vary significantly from one individual to another, influenced by the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of the chosen treatment methods. Here is a general timeline for recovery, along with what to expect at each stage:

  • Mild Coccydynia: For minor tailbone injuries, recovery can take a few weeks to a couple of months. Home remedies, such as using a cushion while sitting and gentle stretching, can be highly effective.
  • Moderate Coccydynia: If the pain is more persistent or the injury is slightly more severe, recovery may extend up to several months. Incorporating physical therapy and possibly medications can aid in healing.
  • Severe Coccydynia: In cases where the tailbone is fractured or the pain is debilitating, recovery could take several months to a year. Advanced treatments, including corticosteroid injections or, in rare cases, surgery, may be necessary.

Regardless of the severity, it's important for postpartum women experiencing tailbone pain to approach their recovery with patience and persistence. Tailbone pain after c-section or vaginal delivery, including scenarios where an epidural was used or the tailbone was broken during birth, requires careful management and adherence to the treatment plan recommended by healthcare professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Summary with Key Takeaways

  • Coccydynia, or tailbone pain after birth, affects a significant number of postpartum women but can be effectively managed with the right approach.
  • Common causes include the stress and strain of childbirth, particularly with difficult deliveries, the use of instruments, or specific baby positions.
  • Symptoms range from discomfort when sitting or standing to sharp pains during certain activities, making early recognition and treatment important.
  • Effective treatments vary from home remedies like sitz baths and proper cushioning to medical interventions such as physical therapy and, in rare cases, surgery.
  • Recovery times can differ widely based on the severity of the condition and the treatment approach, with patience and persistence being crucial to healing.
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