One of the most fulfilling experiences a woman can go through is pregnancy, but it can also be the most terrifying. From new moms to experienced moms, women often face fear of uncertainty and the unknown factors of labor and delivery, and hearing other people’s horror stories doesn’t help. As if labor isn’t painful enough, the idea of breaking your bones, specifically your tailbone, is frightening to say the least. Yes, you read that right, you can break your tailbone during labor, and here’s what the experts have to say about it.
In an interview with Romper, Dr. Adrienne D. Zertuche, OB-GYN at Taylor, Suarez, Cook, Carroll, and Adams (Division of Atlanta Women's Healthcare Specialists), explains that your tailbone, also medically referred to as the coccyx, is the lowest part of your spine, and is made up of three to five vertebrae. She says that coccydynia, or tailbone pain, is five times more likely to occur in women than men, due to the differences in their anatomy. “Pain may occur with bruising, fracture, or dislocation of the bones of the coccyx," she says.
Zertuche explains that one common cause of coccydynia is the intense pressure applied to the tailbone by the baby’s head during the late stages of labor. She notes that this type of coccydynia is most common with very long or prolonged labor. It can also happen if a mother is going through a difficult delivery, including a delivery that involves the use of forceps.
Luckily, tailbone fractures are pretty rare. Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) and Fellow of American College of Childbirth Educators (FACCE) Deena Blumenfeld of Shining Light Prenatal Education tells Romper that while it is possible to break your tailbone during labor, it is very unlikely. She says that bruising is more common, and it's more like the dislocation of a joint, considering the tailbone is jointed.
"If a woman has previously broken her tailbone," says Blumenfeld, "it increases the likelihood of it breaking again." Sometimes, she adds, if the baby is very large (macrosomia), then the tailbone joint gives in order to allow the baby to be born.
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. For example, Blumenfeld suggests you stay off of your back when pushing. "Even semi-seated, reclined positions, where the mother is putting pressure on her tailbone and sacrum, can decrease the natural mobility of the joint and increase the pressure on it."
She says that mothers who are in upright, forward leaning positions, hands and knees, lunges, standing, or squatting for birth decrease their risk of tailbone damage. The position of your baby is also a key factor. "A baby who is not ideally positioned during birth can cause trauma to the tailbone," adds Blumenfeld, "but this is often avoided by a mother who is mobile during labor."
If you have already delivered, and suspect a tailbone injury, how would you know for sure? According to Baby Center, a fracture or injury to the coccyx can cause pain and tenderness in your tailbone area, and will likely be worse when you sit down or strain during bowel movements. If you have any of these symptoms, the article recommended that you consult your physician right away so that your situation can be properly diagnosed through exams and X-rays.
Chicago pharmacist Bineesh Moyeed tells Romper that if you are suffering from a broken or bruised tailbone, you need to rest as much as possible. “Moms can keep an ice pack on the area for a few days to reduce any swelling,” says Moyeed, “and they can also take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, like Ibuprofen, to reduce pain and inflammation.” She suggests using a doughnut or wedged pillow when you sit upright, to help alleviate any direct pressure on the tailbone. Moyeed adds that taking a stool softener is a good idea as well, because constipation can further increase the pain.
So, whoever said pregnancy was a magical fairy tale must have been under the influence or a man, because it really isn’t all that pretty. The good thing is that with modern medicine and tools, there are ways to avoid these more painful situations and ways to help quell the pain.
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