In addition to preparing your hospital bag or readying your space for a home birth, Mama needs to prepare a few things for recovery, too! In fact, we made a handy postpartum checklist for you here. But, you definitely want to make sure you have the right supplies to prepare a sitz bath.
Sounds like a special spa treatment, right?!
Not quite… But don’t worry, we’ll cover all the details in this post, including:
What a sitz bath is
Reasons to take a sitz bath (Hint: faster healing!)
Types of sitz baths
Plus, how to prepare the most healing sitz bath ever
What is a Sitz Bath?
Fun fact: Sitz baths have been around since 1842 and were primarily used to treat abdominal discomfort. Initially, sitz baths were a special tub that allowed individuals to sit waist deep in icy cold water, and you had to sit in the tub while wrapped up in towels! Brr! (source)
Thought a sitz bath was supposed to feel good? Thankfully, sitz baths have come a long way since 1842.
These days, a sitz bath refers to a shallow tub filled with warm water and special ingredients to cleanse and relieve pain in the perineal area.
For this reason, sitz baths are most often used to ease the pain associated with hemorrhoids and postpartum discomfort. Hey, I didn’t say they were glamorous!
Reasons to Take a Sitz Bath
If you’ve just had a baby, chances are you’re sore to say the least. In enters the soothing sitz bath.
1. A sitz bath reduces pain
Tears and stitches may cause you to feel a slight stinging sensation, and a sitz bath can ease this feeling. Many clinical studies and midwifes support this, too!
“[A Sitz Bath] helps with pain and swelling by increasing blood flow to the perineum. It can also help relax your perineal muscles, which reduces pain.” — Kara Manglani, certified nurse midwife
Even if you didn’t tear (lucky you!) or have an episiotomy, a sitz bath can still provide pain relief. After childbirth, the perineum is sore (from all of that stretching!) and swollen. Soaking in a sitz bath can relieve this pain, too.
2. A sitz bath cleanses the perineum
After you’ve had a baby, it’s very important to keep the area down below clean to avoid infection, but wiping with a washcloth or harsh soap can be painful and downright inadvisable. This is especially important if you tore or had stitches.
Sitz baths are a great way to keep the perineum clean without having to press on delicate, sore tissue. And research shows that sitz baths, especially when prepared with herbs that have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties (e.g. lavender, yarrow, and chamomile), decrease the risk of infection dramatically.
3. A sitz bath reduces swelling
Even if you didn’t tear during labor, most women experience swollen labia post-birth. Sitz baths can reduce this type of swelling, too. (source, source) A sitz bath can also help relax and diminish any swelling of the internal sphincter—another common postpartum complaint. (source)
4. A sitz bath speeds healing
Sitz baths are especially beneficial if you have stitches. Warm water increases circulation, and as blood flow increases, your body will use the extra oxygen from the excess blood to heal. (source)
5. A sitz bath treats hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are an unpleasant side effect of both pregnancy and childbirth. Sitz baths may be helpful in reducing hemorrhoid size, as well as healing areas where hemorrhoids were surgically removed. (source) If you are using a sitz bath primarily to treat a hemorrhoid, speed the healing process by applying a little witch hazel after your bath. Try soaking a cotton pad in witch hazel and then patting the affected area.
6. A sitz bath facilitates relaxation
There’s another added perk of a sitz bath—it gives Mama a little peace and quiet! Taking care of your body is important, but any new mama knows just how precious alone time is. A little self-care not only does wonders for your body, but also improves your mood. When you take your sitz bath, try not to rush the process. Let your partner or family member hold baby so you can relax—even if just for 10 minutes. Play some classical music, read a book, or use the time to meditate.
Types of Sitz Baths
When deciding what type of sitz bath you want, you have a few choices: your bathtub, a kit, or a sitz spray. All three options are effective, so choose what works best for you based on space constraints and timing.
Use this method for soaker tubs, shower/tub combos, and jet tubs. Do not attempt this with any chlorinated pool or hot tub.
How to Make a Sitz Bath in the Bathtub:
If you have a tub and prefer not to buy any excess supplies, turn your own bathtub into a sitz bath. Here’s what you need to do:
Clean your tub with natural products (better yet, ask someone else to do it for you)
Fill the tub with a few inches of warm or cold water (more on this below!)
Lay a clean bath towel on the bottom of the tub and sit down. Yes, the towel will be wet, but it’s much more comfortable for a sore bottom to sit on a towel than a hard tub
Relax for 10 to 20 minutes
Note: Clean your tub before using it each and every time! It may seem like an unnecessary step, but it’s essential to prevent infection. Your wounds are still healing! (source)
2. Sitz bath kit
A sitz bath kit includes a special plastic bowl that sits over your toilet. You fill a special bag that looks like an IV bag with water and let gravity draw it into the sitz bath bowl. This option might seem a little complicated for some, and if you want something super straightforward (who doesn’t after a long, hard labor), opt for a soaking bath instead. It’s contained, very intuitive, and easy to clean. Simply fill the bath with water and salt and/or herbs, then soak for 10 to 20 minutes.
How to Make a Sitz Bath With a Kit
Fill the bag with warm water
Lift the seat of your toilet up and rest the plastic seat on the bowl
Hang the bag on your shower curtain or a nearby hook
Sit on the bath until the water is empty
Wash and dry the bath and the bag with a little dish soap and hot water after every use. Hang the tubes over your shower rod to let dry.
3. Sitz spray
A spray is great for moms who don’t have a bathtub or don’t have enough time to sit in the bath. A sitz spray consists of healing herbs like calendula, witch hazel, and cooling herbs like peppermint. After a shower, spritz a few sprays on your perineum—no soaking required! Pro tip: After every bathroom visit, wash yourself with a perineum bottle, gently dab dry with toilet paper or wash cloth, and then finish off with a few sitz bath sprays.
Try one of these natural options:
Note: I know how hard it is to find time for yourself when you have a little one (and possibly a toddler or two) to take care of, but try to squeeze in a little TLC for yourself. Don’t underestimate the power of a real sitz bath for both your body and your mood. If you can, find time to take at least a few sitz baths and use this spray in between.
What’s the Ideal Temperature for a Sitz Bath?
Hot, cold, or warm? What is the best temperature for a sitz bath?
Anecdotally, many women are more comfortable in a warm sitz bath, but studies show a cold sitz bath may provide more pain relief.
According to a study published in The Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, researchers found that mothers who had episiotomies felt more pain relief after a cold sitz bath. Another study found that cold baths were better at reducing swelling.
Maybe those icy cold sitz baths from 1842 make a little more sense now?!
Although it may seem like hot water is super healing, using hot water can actually cause burns to your sensitive perineal area. (source) But what is hot exactly? Most tap water is supposed to max out at 120° F, but depending on how you set your water heater, many tubs and showers can get as hot as 140° F—a temperature that can definitely scald you. (source)
Many midwives suggest using warm or lukewarm water that falls within the range of 98° to 105° F. Warm water is healing, because it promotes good circulation and stimulates blood flow, and is much more comfortable to sit in than cold water.
To get the most benefits out of both cold and warm water, alternate the temperature of your bath. Try doing a warm bath in the morning and a cold bath at night, or vice versa.
How Long Do You Sit in a Sitz Bath?
Most instructions for sitz baths recommend soaking anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes one to two times per day.
Of course, your midwife or OB may give you specific instructions if you need a little extra TLC on your perineal area. Some women take sitz baths daily for a week, while others take them for two to three weeks.
While that may seem overwhelming with a newborn to take care of, keep in mind that this is a short-term healing protocol. Since baby is usually super sleepy and in a daze those first several weeks of his life, take advantage of that time and take care of yourself.
You can do what feels good for you, but if you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider.
Sitz Bath Recipes
Ready to make your own sitz bath? Try one of these natural sitz bath recipes:
Epsom salt sitz bath recipe
Kara Manglani, CNM, provides a super easy Epsom salt recipe:
Fill the sitz bath with warm water and 1/2 cup of Epsom salt
Check the temperature with your finger to make sure it’s not too hot
Submerge your vaginal and anal opening into the water and soak for at least 5 minutes
Baking soda sitz bath recipe
To make a baking soda sitz bath:
Fill your tub with about five inches of warm water
Add 1/2 c baking soda and swish with a clean hand to dissolve
Soak for 10-15 minutes
Pat dry when done
Recipe courtesy of University Health Network
Herbal sitz bath recipe
The easiest way to make an herbal sitz bath is to start by making tea! Yep, tea! This is how:
Take one scoop of sitz bath herbs and add to one quart of boiling water (This brand creates a blend of herbs and salts that are designed to promote healing, fend off infections, and soothe sore bottoms)
Simmer the herbs for up to 10 minutes
Let cool and strain the tea
Add the strained tea to a shallow sitz bath kit or your tub (if using your tub, use only a few inches of water, not a full tub)
Soak 1 to 3 times per day for two weeks or as instructed by your midwife or OB
Pro-tip: Make a big batch of tea, let cool and pour into ice cube trays. You can then prepare a warm bath and plop about 4 cubes per sitz bath session.
Regardless of which type of sitz bath you try, it’s a good idea to apply a cream or ointment post-bath to seal in the benefits. Try coconut oil or perineal balm.
Take Care of Yourself, Mama
Sitz baths aren’t the only thing that can help you feel better after childbirth. Don’t forget to check out Mama Natural’s Postpartum Checklist to help you prepare for this new chapter in your life. And even though it’s tempting to do #allthethings, all the time, accept help from family and friends. You know what they say: It takes a village. Let your village help with household chores, errands, cooking, and other kids, so you can take the time you need to rest, heal, and bond with your new bundle of joy!
How About You?
Did you use a sitz bath after birth? Which method did you use? Did it help the healing process?
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