A sitz bath is one of the best ways you can help soothe irritated tissue and help your body fight off infections on your lower abdomen or perineum. However, these baths are uncommon enough that most people don’t know how to use them properly, regardless of how beneficial they can be. Let’s examine these baths in more detail and go through a step-by-step procedure for drawing one for yourself.
What Are Sitz Baths For?
A sitz bath is a special bath designed to soak your lower abdomen or bottom, rather than wash all of your body. While they do provide some cleanliness benefits by nature of being a bath, sitz baths are mostly used to soothe irritation and help reduce inflammation to aid in the recovery of an injury around those areas.
People use sitz baths to try and improve a a variety of injuries including:
- Injuries or tears to the anal area like anal fissures
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Irritation or inflammation on the inner thighs and perineum
- Swelling or irritation on genital areas
Women who are recovering from giving birth and episiotomy especially, or anyone who has an injury in these areas, can benefit from a sitz bath as part of postpartum care.
These baths were first developed in the 1800s in Britain. They’d have the bather sit in a special tub filled with water just deep enough that the lower abdomen becomes soaked. Though these baths require special preparation, you can take a sitz bath in your regular bathtub, or even while sitting on top of your standard toilet if you have the right equipment.
The Benefits of Sitz Baths
These baths can provide a plethora of benefits, all stemming from the bath’s help in improving your body’s natural healing processes. As the baths are drawn with hot water, they can inspire better blood flow, and may aid in tissue regeneration in affected tissues. This has the potential to provide affected cells with more oxygen and nutrients compared to what they’d get without gentle stimulation. While a sitz bath can’t cure your affliction or injury by itself, they’re a great way to try and help things along naturally.
Furthermore, these baths are generally very gentle on irritated or inflamed areas, especially compared to the rougher experience of a typical shower, so they can be a great way to clean very sensitive areas in your lower abdomen.
Sitz baths can also easily be combined with ancillary healing products, preferably created with natural ingredients like epsom salt and baking soda.
Perhaps one of the best things about sitz baths is that they don’t really have many outstanding risks. While you have to be careful to clean your water and your sitz bath apparatus after using it every time, these baths aren’t invasive compared to other cleaning methods, and they generally won’t irritate inflamed or sensitive tissue, making them a perfect type of bath for post-surgery recovery or post-childbirth relief.
Taking a Sitz Bath, Step by Step
Thankfully, taking a sitz bath is pretty easy even if you’ve never done it before.
What Sitz Bath is Right for You?
The first step involves deciding what type of sitz bath is correct for your needs. Most sitz baths can be purchased online or from various medical supply stores. You can even get them from some pharmacies like CVS.
One type you can find is a portable and plastic sitz bath shaped like a small bowl. These rest on top of your toilet seat and are characterized by a special cut out that lets excess water spill into the toilet bowl instead of overflowing. With this design, your bathroom won’t become overly messy when you take a sitz bath.
Other types of sitz bathtubs might be better for your full-size bathtub. The same principle applies: there’s a cut-out so water drains into your tub instead of overflowing everywhere else.
Either way, sitz bath kits will usually come with a plastic bag that includes a tube on one end that’s used to fill the tub and spray water. It can spray water over your perineum if necessary. Pricier sitz bath models will have longer hoses that can be attached to your bathroom faucet, allowing you to fill the bathtubs pretty easily and quickly.
If you don’t want to pay for a dedicated sitz bathtub, you can always make a sort of bootstrap sitz bath in your own tub. You fill your tub with 3 to 4 inches of lukewarm water and have to be very careful about lowering yourself in place. The advantage of a dedicated sitz bathtub is that it has you sit at a slight angle with your feet up, so you don’t put pressure on any affected tissues. It’s important to remember that you should clean your tub too. The bigger the tub the more cleaning you’ll need to do. You wouldn’t want to put a wound in a dirty tub!
Prep the Bathroom
Getting the tub is one thing, making sure your bathroom is ready for your sitz bath is another. We’d recommend setting up candles or other relaxing things to make your sitz bath experience even more enjoyable and calming. You can use music, too, or bring reading material so you don’t get bored while soaking in the tub.
You’ll also want to set some towels nearby for when you get out of the sitz bath. These should be pretty close at hand if you have difficulty moving as a result of your injury or surgery.
How to Draw a Sitz Bath
Drawing a sitz bath is also pretty easy. The rule of thumb is to use lukewarm water, although technically you can use any water temperature you prefer. Lukewarm is best for helping to stimulate blood flow and promote regeneration while remaining comfortable for the bath’s duration.
You can always test the temperature of the water by letting it run over your wrist. This skin is normally sensitive and provides a good measuring point for the skin of your abdomen and perineum.
Whether you use your regular bathtub or a dedicated sitz bathtub, you’ll only want to fill the basin with 3 to 4 inches of water in total. This is especially important with a dedicated sitz bathtub since filling it too high with water can make it tricky to transfer it from your faucet to your toilet or bathtub.
Taking the Bath
Once your actual bath basin is in place, carefully lower yourself into the seat. It’s okay if a little water is displaced during motion; remember, there’s a cut-out to drain any overflow water into the toilet or tub.
The correct posture will have your knees slightly bent whenever you sit. This takes the pressure off of your lower abdomen and will help you be comfortable while your affected tissues soak in the lukewarm water. If you place your basin in a regular bathtub, you can put your feet on the edge of the tub to let yourself lean back fully.
How long do you need to soak in a sitz bath? It all depends on your needs, but most doctors who recommend this will recommend that you soak between 15 and 20 minutes. This gives your tissues enough time to receive the bath’s therapeutic benefits. However, you might need to add a little more warm water to the mix depending on your ambient bathroom temperature.
Should You Add Anything to a Sitz Bath?
Absolutely. However, you don’t want to add regular bath salts to your sitz bath. This can disrupt the therapeutic benefits of the soaking experience by irritating your sensitive tissues.
Instead, you’ll want dedicated sitz bath products, preferably made with natural ingredients.
If you have a similar natural remedy or if you want to use the above option, just mix it with your sitz bath water before sitting in the bath yourself. You can even add the product to your tub while it’s filling. In most cases, it only takes a couple of seconds for the solution to dissolve within the fluid.
When extracting yourself from a sitz bath basin, stand up carefully and use one of the towels you prepared earlier to pat dry your affected areas. You don’t want to scrub or rub too roughly, as this could irritate your injuries and reverse the helpful effects of the sitz bath.
You can dump the water from your sitz bath basin into the tub or toilet. However, be sure to thoroughly clean your sitz bath basin before you use it again. This is especially important if you have an infection you’re trying to fight. If you’ve failed to properly wash out the basin, the next bath you take could have residual germs from your last bath.
Overall, a sitz bath is a relaxing therapeutic aid to a variety of lower abdominal and perineal injuries. Use them as often as necessary to help your body’s healing process, and ask your doctor if they have any recommendations for these baths or bath balms. But remember, these baths are natural healing efforts; you don’t need a doctor’s prescription to take a sitz bath. Just use them as you feel you need to, keeping common sense in mind!