Postpartum sitz bath for recovery and healing after a vaginal birth

postpartum-sitz-bathLet’s talk about what postpartum recovery is really like…

There’s a lot going on down there after childbirth. If you’ve had a vaginal birth, you’re going to be sore, swollen and uncomfortable for at least a few days. This is especially true if you had stitches, had a forceps or Ventouse delivery, needed an episiotomy or had some tearing and it may take a little longer for things to get back to normal.

Totally natural. Totally normal.

The usual prescription after birth is to:

  • take Tylenol
  • use icepacks generously
  • maybe use some homemade padsicles

Taking a sitz bath? That wasn’t even on my radar.

I spent hours reading posts from the mom’s in my ‘birth club’ about how they were managing new mom life and one thing always shocked me:

The moms who said they had no time to shower.

Really?! Really!!!?

I would have lived in the shower the whole time while bleeding postpartum if I could and it wasn’t unheard of for me to have two showers (sometimes more) every day. It was my top priority (after baby care, of course.) I was paranoid about my stitches, about infection, about cleanliness… ok about EVERYTHING… but still. Not showering was not an option.

But, while showers do pretty well for the cleanliness thing, they don’t do much to help with itching and healing.

To help with that (plus pain), I made up a salt water spray about a week postpartum to use in the shower and it was… ok. Slightly better than nothing.

But, now that it’s been a couple of years and I’ve learned about sitz baths…

I’m definitely going to be doing this next time around.

(Once I get permission from my doctor/midwife anyway – you should definitely get their ok first before you try a sitz bath.)

Related: 14 Postpartum Essentials for a Faster Recovery

“What’s a postpartum sitz bath?” I hear you ask

I’ll tell you!

A sitz bath is a shallow bath you can take either warm or cool. The point is to immerse your sore bits only and it helps soothe and promote healing in your perineal area (and any stitches you may have there, or elsewhere.) You can use just water, or add salts, herbs, or essential oils.

A sitz bath helps by increasing the blood flow and relaxing you which in turn helps with the swelling, pain, and inflammation. Sounds pretty good right?

 

postpartum-sitz-bath (5)How do you make a sitz bath?

You can buy a special sitz bath basin for your postpartum bath – they fit neatly over the toilet, which can make things a bit easier to manage! Or, you could just fill your bathtub with a couple of inches of water.

I wasn’t so spry after birth, so my vote is definitely for the basin. Go team basin!

This is a great option if you’d like to buy one that goes on the toilet. It’s not too expensive and it means you don’t have to fill up your entire bathtub to do your sitz bath. It also means you don’t have to clamber in and out of your tub, which is a big plus for those of us suffering from SPD, hip pain or are just otherwise not very limber after birth. (me)

Why Take a Sitz Bath After Childbirth?

Why would you want to take a sitz bath after a vaginal birth? For starters, postpartum can be pretty darn uncomfortable… to the point where you’ll try almost anything that sounds like it’ll work.

Here are 6 reasons why I’m planning on doing it:

  • Speeds up healing – bathing in warm water helps increase blood flow which can speed up healing. (Yay for that!)
  • Relieves pain – warm water is soothing and helps you to relax which can relieve some pain.
  • Helps with itching – itching, inflammation, swelling… all these things can be helped by a warm sitz bath.
  • Soothes haemorrhoids – more itching, new mom life, the gift that keeps on giving… if you’re ‘lucky’ enough to have one or more of these to deal with in your postpartum recovery, never fear. A postpartum sitz bath will do wonders to soothe the itching.
  • Gets you clean – with soap a no-no after birth and having to be super gentle with that area, it can be hard to feel really clean. Plus, there’s a lot going on down there with all the bleeding and stitches. Sitting and soaking in a sitz bath will help.
  • Helps you pee – if peeing after birth makes you want to cry, try going in your sitz bath just before you finish up. Yep, so gross… but whatever, no one will know, and if it helps you pee without crying it’s so worth it.

What do you put in a Postpartum sitz bath?

There are a lot of different recipes and things out there.

For me, I’d err on the cautious side and not get too creative with what you’re adding to your bath. Your body is healing and if you’ve got tearing, it’s basically an open wound.

  • If you have tearing and stitches – I’d go with a very simple postpartum sitz bath recipe, just Espsom or sea salt, witch hazel and lavender oil.
  • If you don’t have tearing – feel free to get a little more creative with your herbs and oils. Just make sure you brew the herbs and strain them well so you don’t have leaves floating in your bath, potentially making their way up where they shouldn’t go.

Common Sitz Bath Ingredients

There are many different ingredients you could add to your sitz bath. Here are just a few common ones and the reason they’re added:

Epsom Salts – these are full of magnesium which helps to promote healing and relax you. You can buy it here.

Lavender Oil – lavender is a very calming and relaxing scent, it’s also antibacterial and antifungal. Get it here.

Witch Hazel – known for its healing properties which include a strong anti-inflammatory effect. It’s often used to treat hemmorhoids and skin conditions.

Sea Salt – often used in combination with epsom salts. Sea salt is antibacterial and contains minerals that help you heal.

Don’t have these ingredients at home or don’t want to make your own mix? You can easily buy a commercial sitz bath mixture (like this one here) if you don’t want to go to the trouble of making your own.

A Simple Postpartum Sitz Bath Recipe

Here’s a quick and easy recipe for your post birth bath:

  • 1/4 cup epsom salt
  • 3 drops pure lavender essential oil
  • 2 tbsp witch hazel

For a slightly more involved herbal recipe, try this one from Wellness Mama.

Postpartum sitz bath instructions

Need a step by step guide to taking a sitz bath? Yeah, me too!

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. You need to make sure your bath tub or sitz bath basin is sterilised. Clean it thoroughly with dilute bleach to sterilise (make sure you rinse extremely well afterwards.) If you’re using a sitz bath basin, follow any cleaning instructions it came with.
  2. Fill your bath or basin with 2 to 3 inches of warm water.
  3. Add whatever else you wish to add to the bath – epsom salts, lavender oil, coconut oil, witch hazel etc.
  4. Sit in the bath for up to 20 minutes. Wear a t-shirt or have the heater on in the bathroom so you don’t get cold.
  5. Get out of the sitz bath, gently pat dry and get clothed. Never rub!
  6. Empty the sitz bath and clean it thoroughly for next time.

How to clean a sitz bath basin

Need some help cleaning your sitz bath basin? Here’s how to do it:

  1. Drain the sitz bath.
  2. Rinse it thoroughly with hot water.
  3. Add a dilute bleach mixture and scrub.
  4. Rinse well with more hot water.
  5. Dry with a towel.
  6. Put it away for next time.

Questions about taking a sitz bath after birth

Got questions? I bet you do! Here are some things *I* was asking about sitz baths… (feel free to drop any questions you have as a comment below the post!)

  1. I thought you weren’t supposed to have a bath for the first few weeks after birth… why is it ok to take a sitz bath? You should always defer to your doctor’s advice on baths, however, a sitz bath is usually considered safe and therapeutic for postpartum. The reason why baths may be off limits is because of the risk of infection from dirty water when you’re still healing.
  2. Ugh… so this is gross but, doesn’t it look like a crime scene in there if you’re taking a sitz bath while still bleeding? I know. It sounds gross… but, it’s not too bad! And since the whole point is to help you heal, you’ll almost certainly still be bleeding. Give it a try!
  3. I read that salt water can dissolve the stitches too soon… should I not use salt? It should be fine, but check with your doctor that they’re ok with you taking a sitz bath (with salt). You need your stitches to dissolve… but not until you’re healed enough to not need them anymore.
  4. How often can you take a sitz bath? Twice a day seems to be fairly common. If you want to take a sitz bath more frequently, check with your doctor.

Got any more questions? Drop them below!