Sitz baths are warm, shallow baths people use to cleanse the perineum and relieve pain and itching in this area.
A sitz bath is a warm, shallow bath people sit in to cleanse the perineum, which is the space between the rectum and the vulva or scrotum. A sitz bath can also provide relief from pain or itching in the genital area.
You can give yourself a sitz bath in your bathtub or with a plastic kit that fits over your toilet. This kit is a round, shallow basin that often comes with a plastic bag that has long tubing on the end. You can fill this bag with warm water and safely fill the bath via the tubing.
The basin is slightly larger than a standard toilet bowl. You can safely secure and place it underneath the toilet seat to allow you to remain seated while taking a sitz bath. The kit is available in many stores and pharmacies.
A sitz bath doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription. Some people use sitz baths regularly as a way to cleanse the perineum. In addition to its use in cleansing, the sitz bath’s warm water increases blood flow to the perineal area. This can promote faster healing. A sitz bath also relieves:
- minor pain
Common reasons to consider using a sitz bath include:
- recently having surgery on the vulva or vagina
recently giving birth
- recently having hemorrhoids surgically removed
- having discomfort from
discomfort with bowel movements
Both children and adults can use sitz baths. Parents should always supervise their children during a sitz bath.
Doctors sometimes prescribe medications or other additives to put in a sitz bath. An example is povidone-iodine, which has antibacterial properties. Adding Epsom salt, vinegar, or baking soda to the water can also create a soothing solution. Many use only warm water without any additives.
If you’re taking a sitz bath in the bathtub, the first step is to clean the tub. Mix 2 tablespoons of bleach with 1/2 gallon of water. Scrub the bathtub and rinse thoroughly.
- Fill the tub with 3 to 4 inches of water. The water should be warm but not hot enough to cause burns or discomfort. You can test the temperature of the water by placing a drop or two on your wrist. When you’ve found a comfortable temperature, add any substances your doctor recommended to the bath.
- Step into the tub and soak your perineum for 15 to 20 minutes. Bend your knees or, if possible, dangle your legs over the sides of the tub to keep them out of the water altogether.
- When you get out of the bathtub, gently pat yourself dry with a clean cotton towel. Don’t rub or scrub the perineum, as this may cause pain and irritation.
- Finish by rinsing the bathtub thoroughly.
A plastic sitz bath kit fits over the toilet. Many kits come with cleaning instructions and solutions. If your kit doesn’t come with those, clean and rinse all materials thoroughly before use.
Once clean, add warm water with any medications or solutions recommended by your doctor. Avoid using water hot enough to burn the skin.
- Place the sitz bath into the open toilet.
- Test it by trying to move it from side to side to ensure it will stay in place and won’t shift.
- You can pour warm water in before you sit down, or you can use the plastic bag and tubing to fill the tub with water after you’ve sat down. The water should be deep enough so that it covers your perineum.
- Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Using the plastic bag, you can add warm water as the original water cools. Most sitz baths have a vent that prevents water from overflowing. The water conveniently overflows into the toilet and can be flushed.
- When you’re finished, stand up and pat the area dry with a clean cotton towel. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing the area when you do this.
- Get the sitz bath ready for its next use by cleaning it thoroughly.
Although there are no guidelines for when to replace your sitz bath, always check it for signs of cracking or weakened areas before and after use.
Doctors sometimes recommend sitz baths after childbirth to reduce perineal pain and help the area heal. You’ll likely be sore and swollen after delivery, whether you had a vaginal delivery or cesarean section. A sitz bath can help relieve discomfort in your perineum and vulva, while also keeping the area clean.
Hemorrhoids, swelling of the veins in the anus and lower rectum, are also common during postpartum. Sitz baths can also help reduce anal swelling caused by hemorrhoids and make it easier to have a bowel movement without pain.
A sitz bath carries very little risk of harm because it’s a noninvasive treatment. The most common adverse event associated with sitz baths is an infection of the perineum, but this rarely occurs. This may happen if you’re caring for a surgical wound and don’t clean the tub or plastic bath thoroughly. Never share your sitz bath with anyone else. Each person should have their own.
Stop using sitz baths and contact your doctor if the pain or itching worsens, or if your perineum becomes red and puffy.
If sitz baths bring you relief, your doctor will probably recommend taking three or four per day until the source of the itching, irritation, or pain is healed. After a sitz bath, you may immediately return to normal activities unless your doctor has told you otherwise.
If you have any pain or bleeding in your anal area, call your doctor right away. These may be signs of hemorrhoids or another condition. Any perineal discomfort or unusual discharge that doesn’t go away after a few sitz baths warrants a call to your doctor to rule out an infection or other causes.
If you’re pregnant or have recently given birth, ask your doctor or nurse about when you can start taking sitz baths. They’ll likely give you specific instructions on when and how to take them.
Below are some frequently asked questions about sitz baths.
What goes in a sitz bath?
A person can take a sitz bath with or without medication. Many people use only water without any additives, but some people may add Epsom salt, vinegar, or baking soda to their baths. A doctor may prescribe a sitz bath with medication for different conditions.
How do you do a sitz bath?
You can take a sitz bath in a bathtub or with a small plastic tub that fits over the toilet. Fill the tub with enough water to cover the perineum. Then, sit in the tub for 15 to 20 minutes.
What are the benefits of a sitz bath?
Sitz baths can offer relief from various conditions, such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and perineal pain and itching. They also help reduce afterbirth pain and swelling during the postpartum period.
Are there any risks associated with a sitz bath?
Sitz baths are typically safe, but there is a slight risk for infection if the tub or plastic bath is not thoroughly clean. It’s also important to ensure the water is not too hot before sitting in the tub. People with open wounds should avoid sitz baths unless directed by a doctor.
A Sitz bath is a shallow bath you sit in to cleanse the perineum and relieve pain and itching. It also helps reduce hemorrhoids and anal swelling, surgical wound irritation, and postpartum discomfort.
There is very little risk associated with sitz baths, but it’s important to ensure the tub or plastic bath is clean, and the water isn’t too hot. Ask your doctor when you can start taking sitz baths after giving birth or having surgery.