What Is a Sitz Bath—And How Do You Use It?

A women prepares a bath

Kristen Curetter & Daemaine Hines / Stocksy

A sitz bath is a warm, shallow bath you sit in to soak your anus and its surrounding area. The word sitz is actually derived from the German term sitzen, which means to sit.

You can take a sitz bath in a store-bought plastic basin that attaches to the toilet seat or in your own bathtub. For 10 to 15 minutes, you sit in the bath so that your anus, genitals, and area between (perineum) are covered by the water. 

Some people might take sitz baths to get a thorough, gentle cleansing. Sitz baths can also be used to help relieve pain or discomfort from certain surgeries or conditions.

The baths provide relief by improving blood flow and relaxing the muscle around the anus, a muscle known as the internal anal sphincter. The warm water may also include additives, such as Epsom salt or prescribed medication, to help further.

What Is a Sitz Bath Used For?

Sitz baths can soothe pain and discomfort caused by a variety of reasons. You may take a sitz bath as part of the recovery of a recent procedure or as a way to help manage certain conditions.

May Help in Treating Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins around your anus (external hemorrhoids) or in the lining of your anus and lower rectum (internal hemorrhoids). They can develop if you put too much pressure on those veins. That pressure can come from doing things like sitting on the toilet for too long or straining while making a bowel movement.

External hemorrhoids can cause pain and itching while internal hemorrhoids can cause rectal bleeding. Using a sitz bath a few times a day can be a way to treat hemorrhoids and stop their side effects.

May Speed Healing After Certain Surgeries

An episiotomy is a minor surgery sometimes performed during vaginal childbirth to help in delivery. The surgery involves cutting the perineum—the skin and muscles between the vaginal opening and anus.

If you’ve recently had an episiotomy, a sitz bath may help quicken the healing process. The bath might also make the recovery time less painful. This is due in part to the bath’s warmth, which can relax muscles after just five to 10 minutes of soaking. Those relaxing effects can then last for up to 70 minutes after you finish the bath.

What you add to the warm bath water may also make a difference. Research shows that when myrrh gum extract is included in a sitz bath, people who had an episiotomy had significantly less redness and better wound healing than those who took a sitz bath in saline solution (a mixture of sodium chloride and water).

A sitz bath is also commonly recommended after a hemorrhoidectomy, a surgery to remove internal or external hemorrhoids. However, research has been mixed as to whether the bath can actually provide pain relief or improve healing after this type of surgery.

Could Improve Pain During Pregnancy or After Birth

When you are pregnant or have recently given birth, you may develop blood-filled (thrombosed) internal hemorrhoids.

During pregnancy or after birth, you may also have perianal thrombosis, a collection of blood under the skin in the area around the anus.

To help with both of these common conditions, healthcare providers will often recommend sitting in a warm sitz bath. The bath can improve blood circulation in the anal tissue. The bath can also ease pain associated with the two conditions by reducing muscle tension in the anal sphincter.

Together with oral pain relievers, this treatment will usually bring relief.

May Be Helpful in Managing Certain Infections and Diseases

People undergoing chemotherapy for acute leukemia (a type of blood cancer) may experience perianal infection as a treatment complication. The infection shows as a mass around the anus. The mass can be red, swollen, warm, and painful.

A sitz bath that includes a matrine solution (an anti-inflammatory substance made from Chinese herbs) could help significantly improve symptoms of the perianal infection. Research shows that this type of sitz bath can reduce the size of the mass and also lessen pain and inflammation. A sitz bath without matrine solution does not appear to have the same effect.

Some people with monkeypox may also experience relief with a sitz bath. Monkeypox is a disease that can cause a rash on several areas of the body, including on or near the genitals or anus. The rash may be painful or itchy.

Sitting in a sitz bath might provide relief from the rash. A healthcare provider may prescribe medication like the antiseptic povidone-iodine (Betadine) or other products for you to add to the water.

You might also get relief for your monkeypox symptoms if you add any of the following to the water:

  • Epsom salt 
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda

How to Use a Sitz Bath

To get the lasting benefits of a sitz bath, you usually use it two to three times a day. There are a couple of ways you can take a sitz bath.

How to Take a Sitz Bath in a Basin

You can purchase a sitz bath online or at the store. These basins are round and shallow and usually fit over the rim of a toilet. 

If you decide to use a basin kit, check the specific instructions you find inside the box and follow these.

Generally, you will need to take the following steps:

  1. Open the kit, and familiarize yourself with the components.
  2. Rinse the basin to ensure it is clean.
  3. Lift the toilet seat, and set the basin on the toilet bowl. This should fit nicely in place.
  4. Pour some warm water into the basin. Leave about a third of the basin empty so there isn’t too much water that overflows when you sit down. The water should be comfortably warm—not too hot. Test the temperature by putting a drop on your wrist.
  5. Mix in any additives, such as Epsom salts, baking soda, or prescribed medication, that your doctor recommends. Carefully swirl this around so that it dissolves.
  6. Sit comfortably on the basin and remain there for 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Get up, dry off, and pour out the water.
  8. Clean the basin for your next use.

If you prefer, you can also put the basin in a bathtub and use it there.

How to Take a Sitz Bath in a Tub

If you’re using a bathtub, take the following steps to take a sitz bath:

  1. Make sure the tub is clean.
  2. Fill the tub with about 2 to 3 inches of warm water.
  3. Pour in any additives your healthcare provider may have recommended, and swish them until they dissolve. 
  4. Get into the tub. Instead of sitting up straight, lean backwards so that the water can reach the entire area.
  5. Remain in the tub for 10 to 15 minutes before draining the water and patting yourself dry.

A Quick Review

Taking a warm, shallow sitz bath can provide relief from pain and discomfort affecting any area on your bottom—from the genitals to the anus. A sitz bath works to promote blood flow and loosen muscles, which can help in the treatment of hemorrhoids, recovery after episiotomy, and management of certain infections and diseases. Besides water, a sitz bath might have additives like medication or baking soda for added relief. The bath can be taken in a store-bought plastic basin that attaches to a toilet. You can also make your own sitz bath in your bathtub. Make sure to follow the device’s instructions—as well as any guidance from your healthcare provider—when using a sitz bath.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. UpToDate. Patient education: Hemorrhoids (beyond the basics).

  3. MedlinePlus. Sitz bath.

  4. MedlinePlus. Hemorrhoids.

  5. MedlinePlus. Episiotomy.

  6. Lohsiriwat V, Jitmungngan R. Strategies to reduce post-hemorrhoidectomy pain: A systematic reviewMedicina (Kaunas). 2022;58(3):418. doi:10.3390/medicina58030418

  7. Sarbaz Z, Yazdanpanahi Z, Hosseinkhani A, Nazari F, Akbarzadeh M. The effect of sitz bath of hydro-alcoholic extract of myrrh gum on episiotomy wound healing in nulliparous womenJ Family Reprod Health. 2019;13(2):89-97.

  8. Bužinskienė D, Sabonytė-Balšaitienė Ž, Poškus T. Perianal diseases in pregnancy and after childbirth: Frequency, risk factors, impact on women’s quality of life and treatment methodsFront Surg. 2022;9:788823. doi:10.3389/fsurg.2022.788823

  9. Zhou Y, Gao H, Hua H, et al. Clinical effectiveness of matrine sitz bath in treating perianal infection after chemotherapy for acute leukemiaAnnals of Palliative Medicine. 2020;9(3):1109116-1101116. doi: 10.21037/apm-20-912

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox symptoms.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What to do if you are sick.

  12. University Health Network. Having a sitz bath at home.

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