Better Me

How a Simple Sitz Bath Can Relieve Your Genital or Anal Pain

If you have an injury to your perineum—the area between the anus and vulva (in women) or scrotum (in men)—a simple sitz bath could relieve pain, irritation and itching.

What is a sitz bath?

A sitz bath is a warm, shallow bath designed to bathe your perineal area. You can give yourself a sitz bath in your bathtub or you can buy a reusable or disposable plastic sitz bath kit that fits inside your toilet seat (with the lid up or down, depending on the version you choose) so you can gently bathe this area.

The bath kit typically includes a shallow basin you can sit in. Some kits include a plastic bag you can fill with 3 to 4 inches of warm water and use to fill the basin. Others have a pitcher for filling. Most include a system so you can bathe your injured area with fresh, clean water.

“When you use a sitz bath, water flows from front to back over your perineum and drains into the toilet, so clean water is always flowing across your injury,” said Karen Rodeffer-Evans, MD, an OBGYN at Banner Health Clinic in Fallon, NV.

You can use a sitz bath for 15 to 20 minutes, several times a day to soothe the injured or irritated area and help it heal. You can flush the water away once you’re finished. Afterward, gently pat the area dry —don't rub it roughly or you could irritate the injury.

Who can benefit from a sitz bath?

“A sitz bath can be helpful to anyone with a perineum injury,” Dr. Rodeffer-Evans said. Women who have recently given birth vaginally often use sitz baths to help them heal. “Don’t hesitate to use this simple tool even after an uncomplicated delivery,” she said.

Sitz baths also provide relief for women who have had vulvar surgery for laser ablation and people with hemorrhoids, acute anal fissures (a small tear), chronic anal fissure, inflammatory bowel disease, genital itchiness or inflamed prostates.

“This simple method of care can give more relief than expected. It is easy to do but gives an amazing amount of comfort,” Dr. Rodeffer-Evans said.

Are there risks to a sitz bath?

Dr. Rodeffer-Evans said risks are minimal. If you don’t keep your sitz bath clean, you could develop an infection. And if you use water that’s too hot, you could burn yourself. When it comes to water temperature, most people prefer to sit in warm water. (But you can use cool water if that feels better to you.)

Some people add Epsom salt to the bath to help with healing. Dr. Rodeffer-Evans said that’s not necessary, but if you choose to use Epsom salt, keep it to one-half cup of salt per gallon of water. A higher concentration could be irritating and cause additional problems and complications to current injuries if the incorrect amounts are used.

The bottom line

Vaginal birth, hemorrhoids or other conditions can lead to pain and itching in your perineum and anal area. A simple solution—using a sitz bath to soothe the irritated area—can bring relief. If you need to connect with a health care provider to help you find the best ways to heal, turn to Banner Health.

Learn more about health conditions where a sitz bath might help by reading these articles:

Gastroenterology Pregnancy