Your tailbone (or coccyx) is put under a lot of pressure while your baby is being born and it’s that pressure that may cause it to fracture. In most cases, it’s just that, a fracture, however, in some, it’s an actual break and some women even hear it happen.
The coccyx itself is the section of spine at the very bottom of the spine. It’s made up of three to five vertebra, but usually four, and these are usually fused together, although in some people the top vertebrae is not fused to the ones below it. Previous injuries to the coccyx, a very large baby or one who is positioned awkwardly may all increase your risk of damaging your coccyx during labour.
If you injure your coccyx, you will notice that it’s tender when you sit, when you rise from sitting to standing or when you strain when going to the toilet. Once diagnosed, you’ll be advised to rest, prescribed a painkiller such as ibuprofen and told that you can ease the pain by holding a cold compress on the area. If the pain does not improve within a week, speak to your medical caregiver and you will probably be prescribed a stronger pain killer. Just be sure to tell him or her if you are breastfeeding – some drugs can affect your ability to breastfeed or be dangerous for your baby.
Sitting on a pillow or a doughnut shaped ring or taking warm baths will help and you also need to be sure that you don’t get constipated, as this can cause further pain. Make sure you’re getting enough fluids and that you are eating enough fibre and speak to your doctor about taking a safe laxative if you feel it’s necessary.
If your tailbone is just bruised, it should heal on it’s own in a week or two. A fracture will take longer – as long as eight weeks and you may still have pain in the area for longer than that. If it remains a problem your doctor may prescribe steroids or another medication or, very rarely, advise surgery.
If you get pregnant again, you may need to consider having a caesarean to prevent further injury and pain, although if your baby is smaller you may still be able to have a vaginal birth.