Are you a natural-born klutz? You know, the kind who slips in the shower, trips on a curb, or hits their head on a cabinet? Yeah, that’s me. As a matter of fact, my mother repeatedly told me that if I wasn’t careful, I was going to “break my ass.” Well, it only took 39 years, but when it happened I accomplished it quite swiftly. I was heading down the steps, rather quickly, in my socks. Suddenly, I slipped on the carpet and went up in the air and down with 100% of my body weight hitting the step below me. I knew instantly that my tailbone was broken.
The pain was positively excruciating. I could barely speak, it hurt so badly. After getting onto my side, I crawled up the steps. I finally got to my feet and knew that I had to get to urgent care immediately. I sat on my side in the car and walked slowly inside. A quick x-ray confirmed a hairline fracture of my tailbone. Then she delivered the news: there is basically nothing you can do, and you just have to let it heal. Holy shit!
I was given some painkillers and told to get a doughnut pillow to sit on because it was going to be virtually impossible to sit on a hard surface for weeks, maybe MONTHS. I was shook. That first night home my husband had to position me in bed, very similarly to the way that he had when I was pregnant. If I wasn’t on my side, the pain was unbearable. I took painkillers and just toughed it out. Everywhere I went, I carried that doughnut to sit on. Given the choice, I stood, and this went on for a long, long time. Even today, three years later, I will occasionally get a pain in my backside and have to stand up or lay down immediately until it passes. It sucks.
So why am I telling you all about the pain in my ass? Well, did you know that this could actually happen when you are giving birth?! Uh, yeah. While you are pushing a baby out of your vagina, it can cause a break in your tailbone. Typing that sends shivers down my spine. If you’ve had a baby, you know that recovery can be tough. Broken your tailbone? You know that it is miserable. But the thought of those two recoveries at the same time while taking care of a newborn is truly unfathomable.
When a baby passes through the birth canal, it comes in contact with the coccyx, the fancy name for tailbone. If a mother’s tailbone is properly aligned, it tilts backward as the baby passes through. If a mother’s tailbone is forward it makes things more difficult and more force may be needed to deliver the baby. This increased pressure can cause bruising, dislocation, or even fracture of the tailbone.
According to the Birth Injury Justice Center, several factors can cause tailbone fracture. They include:
- The baby being born face up
- A baby weighing nine pounds or more
- Long, complicated, or difficult labor
- A small, or narrow pelvis
- The use of forceps or vacuum during delivery
- Medical negligence
It is also of note that if a woman has experienced a tailbone fracture in the past, there is a greater chance that it will happen again.
“It’s important to let your healthcare team know if you have had any pain or injury to your tailbone before going into labor because there are things you can do to minimize the pressure,” Deena Blumenfeld, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and Fellow of American College of Childbirth Educators told Birth Injury Justice Center
If you have injured your tailbone during delivery, there are things that you can do to help manage the pain. According to BabyCenter, the number one tip is to rest. You should also put ice on the area several times a day. Your doctor may prescribe painkillers, depending upon your nursing status, and will likely tell you to lie on your side to be the most comfortable. A doughnut or a wedge cushion will be your best friend the first few days and weeks after the injury. You also want to be sure that you are eating plenty or fiber and drinking lots of water to avoid constipation. A stool softener isn’t a bad idea; struggling to poop is pure hell.
A tailbone injury can take weeks to months to heal, but pain can remain for a long time. You may be referred to a specialist if your tailbone doesn’t seem to be healing properly. Sometimes physical therapy or cortisone shots may be necessary.
Every day, women give birth to babies who are miracles. And our bodies do incredible things, but even the strongest bodies sometimes face some challenges. If you have broken your tailbone, I empathize. I can feel your pain … literally. If you have done this during childbirth, you are my hero — and you deserve a big award for being the world’s toughest badass.