Congratulations on your baby – girl, you need a postpartum sitz bath!
Sorry that your ‘downstairs’ is a terrible disaster. (Don’t worry – it heals.) You need to know allllll about postpartum sitz baths. (One of the most beneficial things you can do for your physical postpartum recovery if you ask me!)
One of the very best things I did postpartum – once I was home from the hospital – was taking a sitz bath twice per day. (After it had been okay-ed by my doctor. Do not take a sitz bath until your doctor or midwife has told you that you can.)
Maybe this seems like such an odd little corner of postpartum recovery to write an entire post on, but it was one of the things I googled the most in the first week after I got home. And I was pretty disappointed with the information available online.
Because I was so. freaking. uncomfortable. and I was ready to try just about anything that wouldn’t make it worse. (I was hesitant at first – that it would be painful and also that it would be unsanitary, or that it might dissolve my stitches sooner than ideal… but none of those worries were founded!)
(THIS POST PROBABLY CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY IS REALLY BORING, BUT YOU CAN FIND IT HERE.)
Both my doctor and the health nurse that visited me at home said: “you could do it” (with a shrug) and “it wasn’t a bad idea” but neither of them seemed to care much either way if I did it or not.
It was really my mom who finally convinced me to get in the water. (Some people don’t like the idea of a postpartum bath because it makes them nervous, but I swear, there’s nothing to be nervous about once you know how to use a sitz bath!)
I was just so uncomfortable, literally all day long, and learning how to do a sitz bath changed that!
(Speaking of uncomfortable – are you still pregnant and struggling to sleep? You can grab yourself one of these pregnancy pillows for 50$ off here with the code mommyonpurpose50 – just for my readers ♥.)
6 Reasons why I love sitz baths postpartum:
♥ To clean up. It’s not pretty down there, and even though you can’t (well, probably wouldn’t want to anyhow) use soap yet, just being submerged in the water will make a big difference.
♥ To relieve pain. You might not believe it until you’ve tried it… but there is something seriously soothing about sitting in hot water. (Some people say cold water is even better for pain relief. Not my experience, but everyone is different, I guess. Try both!) The sitz bath helps with inflammation and itching, especially if you include Epsom salts in it.
♥ To speed up healing. Yes, it can actually do this – thank goodness! It boosts blood flow to the area, aiding in recovery time (according to this article at WebMD.com).
♥ To dissolve stitches. You’d think you want the stitches in there, but you’d be wrong. I never really realized JUST how uncomfortable stitches in your lady bits might be. A sitz bath won’t dissolve them TOO fast, but it can help them not to hang around longer than necessary.
♥ To treat hemorrhoids. You know, more inflammation and itching. (The joy of postpartum!) Also, just FYI, I used this cream THAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT to treat hemorrhoids, and it is AMAZING. (I also put it all over down there to speed healing – and I think it really helped.)
♥ To take 20 minutes twice per day to yourself. Or maybe three times per day haha. I am not, and never have been, a “need to get away” kind of girl. But there is really a-lot going on those first few weeks, and just sitting quietly doing something nice for yourself is actually awesome.
How to take (an effective) at home sitz bath (or postpartum bath) 101
You can buy one of these on-top-the-toilet sitz baths, but I like simple, so I just sat in three inches of water in my bathtub.
BEFORE WE START:
You’ll see it recommended all over the “Internets”, and possibly by your doctor, that you don’t get in a hot tub or bath postpartum for up to 6 weeks.
One of the big reasons for this, I was told by my health nurse, is because when you submerge yourself in lots of water the water pressure can force water…. up. You have all kinds of things going on up in there right now, and getting a bunch of – possibly not clean – water up in there would be a bad idea.
So keep your sitz bath to just a couple inches deep. This prevents the water pressure from forcing water up, and removes the risk involved with bathing.
Now, here’s how to take a sitz bath after baby:
♥ FIRST, clean your bathtub. (Or have someone clean your bathtub for you.) If you use diluted bleach just rinse it VERY well.
♥ Wear a t-shirt to keep your upper body warm. You want to soak for 15 – 20 minutes and that’s actually a long time to just sit there naked.
♥ Use just enough water to submerge your lady bits. (Remember… you don’t want water going up.) Either warm OR cold, but I found warm (quite warm) was nicer.
♥ Epsom salts and lavender essential oil. There are heaps of suggestions out there for things that you should be adding to your sitz bath, but I like to error on the side of caution when we are talking about open wounds (which I did have, and which you likely also have).
I also didn’t want little bits of leaf floating around and sticking to me… perhaps if you decide to use herbs put them in clean pantyhose or tie them up in cheesecloth.
Midwives Collective of Toronto claims Epsom salts will reduce swelling, discourage infection and encourage healing. They are also helpful for hemorrhoids. I bought it in bulk like this, to make it super affordable.
I chose to use lavender essential oil as well, after all my googling. The Green Parent, in their article Healing the perineum after birth, mentions that lavender oil is “antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory”, and aids in relaxation, sleep and skin regeneration. I would not use just any essential oil, only a good quality one that you trust to be a pure essential oil. I used this one, and it was amazing.
♥ No one will judge you (or know) if you pee in the tub before you get out. Yep, that IS super gross. But if under the water is the only way that you can pee without crying, then do it. Just rinse with clean water before you get out of the tub. (This didn’t work for me, so I didn’t bother. It hurt just as bad under the water as out of it. In which case, try standing (or kneeling, if you’re shaky) in the tub and letting the pee fall STRAIGHT down, rather than running over your body at all.)
♥ Use dollar store towels to PAT dry. Purchasing a few dollar store towels pre-delivery is a good idea. If you do use your good towels, be prepared that they’ll get messy. (On this note, place a dollar store towel on the floor over your bath mat for the first few days getting in/out of the tub. I had to throw away one bath mat.)
♥ Repeat 2 – 3 times per day.
Not hard, and you will love it. I loved it anyhow – and I needed it. (You need it too – and if you’re needing someone to commiserate with you about this whole miserable experience… well… I pooped myself postpartum. Read about that here.)
How Many Days to Do Sitz Bath After Birth?
Honestly, this is a personal question that only you will know the answer to.
Do it for as many days as you need/ want to!
I stopped doing postpartum sitz baths when I felt healed.
(However, feeling healed does not mean you can start filling the bath up with 12 inches of water! Remember, there are potentially open wounds inside your body for up to 6 weeks – which means even if you feel healed externally, consult your doctor before taking a REAL bath, or just stick to the 6-week rule about not submerging your body. Take a shower to get clean!)
With my first, healing took much longer and I took a regular sitz bath (or two) per day for at least the first week, and continued having one sitz bath with Epsom salts per day for at least two weeks.
I had a lot less damage with my second baby and I think I only took sitz baths for about a week or so total.
But what do you do with the baby while you’re taking a sitz bath?
I’m updating this post to include this information because I’ve seen women comment that they don’t have time to sit in a tub for 20 minutes per day (twice a day) postpartum.
I’m assuming that these comments are coming from women who don’t have supportive partners who are willing to watch the baby while they take care of themselves… and that is a shame, but I also know it’s a reality.
My husband went back to work 5 or 6 days after both my kids were born, and I still did my sitz bath after he was at work when I was alone with my kids.
With my first, it was really really easy – I’d just do it as soon as he fell asleep. Even the worst nappers generally sleep for 15-20 minutes (if their tummies are full) when they are new.
I had bad postpartum anxiety, and I hated to leave my baby alone, so I would put my tiny portable baby bassinet in the bathroom and he slept right beside my tub!
(That little bassinet was my favorite thing because he could sleep wherever I was! I highly recommend you have one.)
When I had my SECOND, finding 20 minutes to get in my sitz bath when I was alone with both kids was only slightly harder.
I still bathed while the new baby was asleep – but my first was too young to watch TV alone or anything like that, and he was down to one nap per day – so I just let him come in the bathroom with me.
Maybe that is not IDEAL, certainly, it negates the “relaxing alone time” aspect of a sitz bath, but it in no way negates the “I feel like a new human” aspect of it.
Finally, one last idea for how to make sitz baths happen when you’re alone with the kids – when a family member or friend comes over to meet baby, and they say “is there anything I can do for you?”, say “YES! Hold the baby for 20 minutes while I take a sitz bath!”
So is there anything else you can do besides a sitz bath after birth to speed recovery postpartum?
Ummmm YES – there are MANY things you can do besides taking a postpartum bath to speed up postpartum recovery and get more comfortable.
Here’s a list of TWELVE things you can do for faster healing after vaginal birth!
Did you take postpartum sitz baths? Why or why not?
P.S. – speaking of baths, you’re not the only one bathing these days… so use the coupon code mommyonpurpose50, and grab yourself one of these adorable hooded bath towels for your new babe FOR FREE.