Feeling the pain after delivery or hemorrhoid surgery? A sitz bath may help.
If you’ve just been through a tough labor and delivery or are feeling distress from hemorrhoids, you would welcome almost anything to relieve the discomfort.
Perhaps your doctor suggested a sitz bath, among other treatments. The sitz bath is an easy, relaxing therapy that can help relieve pain, swelling, itching or muscle spasms in the rectal area.
Sitz baths are most often used for:
- Anal fissures or fistulas
- Episiotomy (tear in vagina during delivery)
Sitz baths may actually speed healing after hemorrhoid surgery or an episiotomy.
What you’ll need
If you do not have a portable tub (known as a sitz bath), you can sit in a bathtub filled two to three inches of warm water for the same effect. Typically, though, it’s more convenient to use a portable plastic tub that fits right over the toilet. Some women prefer a cool sitz bath, especially after an episiotomy. Check with your doctor to see which is right for you.
Follow any directions that come with the sitz bath. Some sitz baths come with a solution bag and a tube. The bag can be used by filling it with water and hanging it from a hook (IV poles are commonly used for this purpose in the hospital). A tube will run from the bag into the sitz bath (which sits over the toilet) to supply a continuous flow of water into the tub.
Many sitz baths have built-in “vents.” When you sit down, these vents prevent overflowing, as the water empties through the vents into the toilet bowel. If using a solution bag, the water will run continuously from the bag and out through the vents. If your sitz bath does not have a vent, be careful not to overfill it.
Taking a sitz bath
If you have no solution bag, here’s what to do:
- Place the portable sitz bath over the toilet. Make sure it is secure so it does not shift.
- Fill the sitz bath with either warm water or room temperature water to which ice cubes can be added.
- If your doctor has advised it, add salt or baking soda to the water.
- Medication may be suggested by your doctor.
- Sit in the sitz bath for 10 to 20 minutes, or as directed by your doctor. The water should cover your whole rectal area.
- When finished, get up slowly to prevent dizziness from any dilation of blood vessels that may be caused by the warm water.
- Carefully dry the area. If you can, let the rectal area dry on its own or pat it dry with a clean cotton towel.
- Wash your sitz bath after each use and dry it thoroughly.
Use your sitz bath as often as suggested by your doctor. In general, that may be several times a day as needed to ease discomfort.
Sitz baths are sold at many drug store chains for about $10. You can also find them at hospital pharmacies or medical supply stores. If you need a sitz bath after surgery or having a baby, ask the staff in the hospital. They will often give you one before you go home.