Picture yourself leaving the hospital or birthing center with your new bundle of joy. You dress baby in an adorable outfit, carefully buckle them into the shiny new car seat, and observe the speed limit all the way home. Not pictured: The oodles of discharge instructions and related accessories, tossed in the trunk. Babies arrive with a lot of stuff – and some of it is exclusively for you, mama! And one postpartum essential, in particular, may be unfamiliar at first: a sitz bath kit.
So what is a sitz bath?
Put simply, a sitz bath is a way to gently clean and soothe your genital area. Sitz baths are an easy, noninvasive treatment you can do at home to ease postpartum pain. If you’ve just given birth, this will be music to your ears! Read on to learn about the postpartum benefits of sitz baths and how to use them.
Sitz Baths, Explained
Sitz baths aren’t on many women’s radars until after they deliver. Think of it as a gentle soak designed for your nether-regions. If you want to comfort that area and aren’t feeling up for a full bath or shower, a sitz bath can be just the ticket.
When taking a sitz bath, you sit in shallow, warm water that is just deep enough to cover your butt and your hips. You may also hear it called a “hip bath” for this reason. (Another fun fact: “sitz” comes from sitzen, the German word for “to sit.”)
Sitz baths have plenty of benefits for new mamas. They are good for easing soreness, swelling, and itching in your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus) as you recover from a vaginal delivery. If you had a perineal tear or episiotomy during delivery, a sitz bath can be especially helpful. You can also use a sitz bath for hemorrhoid relief, both during pregnancy or postpartum.
Sure, warm water usually feels relaxing. But there’s more to a sitz bath than that. The warm water in a sitz bath also increases blood flow to the region, which can promote faster healing. (Sign us up!)
How to Use a Sitz Bath
One of the best things about a sitz bath is that it requires very little equipment: a clean basin or tub, plus water. You can also take things up a notch with bath salts, which are touted for their mind and body benefits.
To take a sitz bath, you can use a plastic basin designed to fit inside a standard toilet seat. Your hospital or birthing center may provide one (score!), or you can buy a sitz bath kit at most drug stores. You can also take a sitz bath in a regular bathtub – again, be sure to clean it first.
Either way, start by filling the basin with 2 to 3 inches of clean water. The water should be just deep enough to cover your perineum. You want the temperature to be warm, but not so hot that it burns the delicate skin down there. Find cold water to be more comfortable? Go for it!
If you desire, add bath salts to the water (1 to 2 tablespoons of bath salts if using a basin, 1/2 cup of bath salts if using a regular bathtub), stirring with a spoon to help them dissolve. For the most soothing experience, wait to use bath salts until all sutures have been removed and there are no remaining open wounds. You’ll also want to skip your favorite bath bubbles or shower gel for now, since you shouldn’t use soap products until your perineum is completely healed. The fragrances and other harsh ingredients will only irritate the area further.
Then, sit down and soak for 15-20 minutes. Try sitting with your knees bent, as this position will help the water completely reach the area you’re trying to heal. You can even play music or bring a book to keep you company.
After your soak, pat the area completely dry with a clean towel (rubbing would be bad news right now). If a towel feels a bit much right now, you can use a hairdryer on the cool setting. Clean your tub or sitz bath kit with soap and water between uses. That’s it!
You can take a postpartum sitz bath once a day until you have healed. (When in doubt, check with your healthcare provider.)
Stop taking sitz baths if your postpartum pain gets worse or you notice signs of infection. Redness, swelling, and pus in the perineal area can all point to infection. Fever is another warning sign. If you experience any of these symptoms, or if something doesn’t feel quite right, be sure to contact your doctor or midwife right away.
Sit Back and Relax
It takes weeks, even months, to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. In the meantime, sitz baths are a simple, effective way to find relief. Enjoy these rare moments of relaxation, knowing you’ll feel more and more like yourself with each passing day.
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