Tailbone Pain After Birth: Causes and Relief Strategies

18 Mar 2024, by

Dr. Lusine Badalian

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Experiencing tailbone pain after childbirth is not uncommon, with a significant number of women facing this discomfort. This condition, known as coccydynia, can range from mild to severe, impacting the postpartum recovery process. A study from the Journal of Pain Research reveals that at a mean time of 2.3 postpartum years, 7.3% of women reported any pain, and 6.1% reported significant pain related to the delivery. Such statistics highlight the importance of awareness, timely diagnosis, and effective treatment to manage tailbone pain effectively, ensuring that new mothers can recover comfortably and fully engage in the joy of motherhood.

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.

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.


Such scenarios can lead to postnatal tailbone pain, highlighting the importance of being aware of the causes and seeking appropriate care.

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.

Diagnosing Coccydynia in Postpartum Women

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.

Effective Treatments 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.

Prevention and Management Strategies

Preventing coccydynia during and after pregnancy involves awareness and proactive measures to minimize risks and manage symptoms. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Pelvic Floor Exercises: Regularly performing exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor can provide better support for the coccyx. Consult with a healthcare professional or a physical therapist to learn appropriate exercises.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Keeping within the recommended weight gain range during pregnancy can reduce the stress on your pelvic area, including the tailbone.
  • Adopt Correct Posture: Proper posture while sitting, standing, and moving can prevent excessive pressure on the tailbone. Be mindful of your posture during pregnancy and in the postpartum period.
  • Use Supportive Seating: During pregnancy and after delivery, use chairs that provide good back support and consider using a cushion to relieve pressure on the coccyx when sitting.
  • Stay Active: Regular, gentle exercise during pregnancy can help maintain overall body strength and flexibility, which is beneficial for managing and preventing tailbone pain.

Risk Factors for Developing Coccydynia

Understanding the factors that increase the risk of developing tailbone pain after birth is crucial for preventing and managing this condition effectively. Several key risk factors contribute to the likelihood of experiencing coccydynia postpartum:

  • Labor and Delivery Conditions: Difficult deliveries, particularly those requiring the use of instruments like forceps or vacuum, can significantly stress the coccyx. Additionally, a prolonged labor or one that involves extensive pushing can exacerbate the risk.
  • Position of the Baby: Babies positioned in the posterior or "sunny-side up" orientation can apply more pressure on the tailbone during delivery, increasing the risk of injury.
  • Previous Tailbone Injury: Women who have previously injured their tailbone or experienced coccydynia are at a higher risk of encountering tailbone pain postpartum.
  • Epidural Use: While epidurals are a common form of pain relief during labor, there is some anecdotal evidence suggesting that being less mobile during delivery due to an epidural might contribute to tailbone stress or injury.
  • Pre-existing Spinal Conditions: Conditions like lumbar lordosis (excessive inward curve of the lower back) can alter the stress distribution along the spine and coccyx during childbirth, potentially leading to injuries.
  • Osteoporosis: A decrease in bone density can make the tailbone more susceptible to fractures during the physical stress of childbirth.


By recognizing these risk factors, expectant mothers and their healthcare providers can discuss and plan for delivery methods that minimize the risk of tailbone injury, ensuring a smoother postpartum recovery process.

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.

Adopting a proactive approach towards treatment, being mindful of the body's signals, and maintaining open communication with healthcare providers are key to navigating the recovery process effectively. Remember, every woman's journey to recovery is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Tailbone sticks out after childbirth or any discomfort felt in the coccyx area post-delivery should be monitored and discussed with a healthcare provider to ensure the best care and outcomes.

Summary

  • 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, 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.
  • Diagnosis typically involves a physical exam, and may include imaging tests; seeking professional advice early can lead to better outcomes.
  • Effective treatments vary from home remedies like sitz baths and proper cushioning to medical interventions such as physical therapy and, in rare cases, surgery.
  • Prevention strategies include maintaining a healthy weight, practicing good posture, and engaging in pelvic floor exercises both during and after pregnancy.
  • Recovery times can differ widely based on the severity of the condition and the treatment approach, with patience and persistence being crucial to healing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most effective treatments for tailbone pain after giving birth?

The best approach often combines home remedies, like sitz baths and using specialized cushions, with professional treatments such as physical therapy or medication for more severe cases.

Can having a c-section prevent tailbone pain postpartum?

While c-sections might reduce the risk of coccydynia by avoiding the physical strain of vaginal delivery, they do not guarantee you won't experience tailbone pain, especially if other risk factors are present.

Does an epidural increase the risk of tailbone pain after birth?

There is anecdotal evidence that suggests limited mobility from an epidural might contribute to tailbone stress or injury, but it's not definitively proven as a direct cause of coccydynia.

How long does tailbone pain last after childbirth?

Recovery can range from a few weeks to several months, depending on the severity of the pain and the effectiveness of the treatment plan.

How can I differentiate postpartum tailbone pain from general discomfort after delivery?

Coccydynia is characterized by specific symptoms such as increased pain when sitting or standing and a sharp ache in the coccyx area, distinguishing it from general postpartum discomfort.

Is it possible to break your tailbone during childbirth?

Yes, though rare, the tailbone can fracture during childbirth due to pressure from the baby's head, especially in difficult deliveries or when instruments are used.

What should I do if my tailbone sticks out more than usual after childbirth?

If you notice changes in the structure of your tailbone or experience discomfort, it's essential to consult a healthcare provider to assess the situation and discuss potential treatments.

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