What is a sitz bath?
“Sitz bath” comes from the German word “sitzen,” which means to sit. A sitz bath is a pool of water that you sit in, with only your hips and bottom submerged.
You can take a sitz bath using a special basin designed for this purpose and placed securely on a toilet seat. Or, you can fill up your bathtub with a small amount of water and create a sitz bath that way.
The hospital has sitz bath basins but don’t give them to all the patients. If you don’t get one don’t be shy to ask for one. Doing a sitz bath in the bathtub is one way to do it, but it’s 100% not happening if you’ve had a tear or episiotomy so I’m not into it. Just sitting can already be an ordeal, I’m not sure how it would go down to have to lower yourself into a bath… like no.
What are the benefits of using a sitz bath for pain relief after birth?
What To Expect lists the following benefits to sitz baths:
- Improves blood flow to the perineal area, which reduces swelling and inflammation and promotes healing.
- Relaxes the muscles in the perineum, which can relieve the pain of a tear or episiotomy.
- Soothes the soreness that comes from childbirth stretching.
- Relieves the itching that often accompanies stitches.
- Keep things clean down there, helping to lower the risk of infection.
- Ease pain and itching from hemorrhoids.
Instructions on how to use a sitz bath
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to set up and use a sitz bath:
- Fill a cleaned and disinfected sitz bath basin with two to three inches of water. You want the water to come up only to your hips when you sit down. Using a specialized basin that fits on top of a toilet is easier than using a tub, since you won’t have to take your clothes off.
- Use warm (not hot) water. Some women prefer cool water in their sitz bath — especially since cool water tends to reduce swelling more effectively than warm water. If you’re using a sitz bath tea (see this blog post for more info on that) you’ll want to boil water, pour it into the basin, steep the tea bag in it and let it cool down – or add cold water once the “tea” is ready.
- Experts recommend soaking for a few minutes a few times a day (however often you can make it happen, but not longer than 15 minutes in one sitting). If there are stitches in the perineum, too much soaking can cause the tissues to break down and the stitches to fall apart.
- Some health care providers suggest adding Epsom salts, witch hazel, lavender oil or chamomile oil for extra relief, though there isn’t much evidence that they help with healing or pain.
- When you’re done, pat the area dry with a soft, clean towel, or use a hairdryer on cool setting. (You’ll want to keep the area as dry as possible, especially if you have stitches). Don’t rub — that’ll only increase your soreness.
Are there any risks associated with using a sitz bath?
Sitz baths or tubs that aren’t cleaned and disinfected well before using may spread bacteria, so be sure it’s clean before use.
FYI – I like this Youtube video which quickly goes over postpartum healing and care, including the use of the sitz bath.