Postpartum Care with Sitz Baths: Benefits and How to Use Them

A soothing scene of a postpartum sitz bath in cool water highlighting the benefits
Pregnancy and birth can take a toll on your body, and you will have to take extra care of yourself after delivery. Delivery can be stressful, and even if you didn’t have an episiotomy or tear, there will be pain and tenderness in your perineum. Whether you just want to feel cleaner or are looking for pain relief, a sitz bath is one of the best ways to help you postpartum.

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A soothing scene of a sitz bath in cool water, the mother relaxes and feels relief, the bathroom is calm with natural light filtering through, a few candles lit around, the water slightly ripples

What is a Postpartum Sitz Bath?

A postpartum sitz bath is a warm, shallow bath that soothes the perineal area (the area between the vagina and anus) after childbirth. It is recommended to help relieve pain, reduce swelling, and promote healing of the perineal tissues, especially if there were tears or an episiotomy during delivery. The word “sitz” comes from the German word “sitizen,” which translates to sit. You can do a sitz bath in a bowl designed specifically to insert into the toilet or by filling a regular bathtub with a little bit of warm water. Some people prefer to do their sitz bath in cool water. When done two to four times a day for 15 to 20 minutes, a sitz bath will prompt fast healing and pain relief.

Benefits of Sitz Baths for Postpartum Moms

Some of the benefits of sitz baths include:

  • Pain and itch relief: Postpartum, especially after an episiotomy or hemorrhoids.
  • Improving blood flow: Enhances blood flow to the perineum, reducing inflammation and swelling, and promoting healing.
  • Relieving itchiness: Due to stitches.
  • Soothing soreness: Resulting from the stretching of the vagina and perineum during childbirth.
  • Keeping the perineal area clean: Lowering the risk of infection.

Additionally, incorporating a routine of perineal massage during pregnancy can further aid in postpartum recovery. Perineal massage helps to increase the elasticity of the perineum, potentially reducing the severity of tears during childbirth and easing postpartum discomfort.

A new mother preparing a sitz bath in a regular bathtub, adding Epsom salt to the warm water, the bathroom is bright and welcoming with soft lighting, her expression is calm and focused

How to Use a Sitz Bath

Whether you choose to use a kit that you can fit in your toilet or a bathtub to do your sitz bath, here are methods that you can follow.

Using a Fitted Toilet Bowl Kit

  1. Purchase a Sitz Bath Kit: You can buy a sitz bath kit online or from your local drugstore but make sure to rinse it well before using it.
  2. Fit the Basin: Place the basin in the toilet and ensure that it is fitted properly.
  3. Prepare the Bath: Add warm or cool water and any medication that your doctor has suggested to the bath before you sit down. Make sure that there is enough water so that your perineum is covered.
  4. Soak: Sit in the bath for up to 20 minutes and add warm water when necessary. If your kit has tubing, you can use this to add water or medicine to the bath.
  5. Dry Off: Once you are done, do not scrub or rub yourself. Use a soft towel to soak up the water and pat dry.
  6. Clean the Basin: Don’t forget to clean the basin well and thoroughly rinse all the parts and prepare it for your next sitz bath.

Using a Bathtub for a Sitz Bath

  1. Clean Your Bathtub: Thoroughly clean your bathtub with 2 tablespoons of bleach mixed with half a gallon of hot water.
  2. Fill the Bathtub: Fill the bathtub with warm but comfortable water, up to three to four inches.
  3. Soak: Soak for 15 to 20 minutes and when you are done, pat dry with a clean towel.
  4. Rinse Out the Bathtub: Rinse out the bathtub well.

Additional Tips for Effective Sitz Baths

  • Water Temperature: Do not use very hot water. If you want to use cool water, that’s fine as well since cool water helps to reduce swelling better than warm water.
  • Duration: Don’t soak for more than 20 minutes at a time. Too much soaking can cause your stitches to fall apart.
  • Additives: You can add Epsom salt, lavender oil, chamomile tea, or witch hazel for additional help with pain relief.
  • Cleanliness: Do not use a sitz bath kit or a tub which is not cleaned and disinfected well as this could cause a bacterial infection.
  • Avoid Soap: Do not add bubble bath gel or any other soap to the sitz bath.
serene scene of a new mother taking a sitz bath

How Long Should You Continue Using a Sitz Bath?

It is typically recommended to use a sitz bath for the first few weeks postpartum, or until the perineal area feels healed and comfortable. The frequency can be adjusted based on personal comfort and healing progress, but many women find it beneficial to use a sitz bath 2-3 times a day for the first week or two.

Risks and Side Effects of Sitz Baths

Sitz baths are generally safe, but it's important to keep the bath and any added ingredients clean to avoid infection. If using a sitz bath basin, make sure it is properly sanitized before each use. If you experience increased pain, unusual discharge, or signs of infection (such as fever or redness), discontinue use and contact your healthcare provider.

Using a Sitz Bath After a C-Section

While sitz baths are primarily recommended for vaginal deliveries to soothe the perineal area, some women who have had a C-section might still experience discomfort or swelling in the perineal area due to pressure during pregnancy and delivery. It's best to consult with a healthcare provider to determine if a sitz bath would be beneficial in your specific situation.

When to Contact Your Doctor

If you experience an increasing amount of pain in your perineal area and notice swelling, increasing redness, or oozing of fluids from your stitches, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor may recommend additional treatments or therapies to support your postpartum recovery.

Incorporating a sitz bath into your postpartum care routine can provide significant relief and promote healing.

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