The Benefits of Postpartum Sitz Baths

Yungatart sitz bath
Photo ©

A postpartum sitz bath is a special bath used in the early postpartum period to help ease the pain, promote healing, and give good hygiene to the perineal area. This is particularly helpful after an episiotomy or tearing during birth. A postpartum sitz bath can also help reduce swelling in the perineum or a swollen labia when there is no cut or tearing.

Portable Sitz Bath

In the hospital, you may be given a portable sitz bath. This sits over a normal sized toilet. You fill a bag with warm or cold water and sit on the sitz bath. The water then flows over your perineum allowing for healing and cleansing. You can add medication or herbal preparations at will.

Try Cold Water

While you can use warm or cold water, the studies that have been done show that cold water provides more pain relief in the hour and half hour after doing the postpartum sitz bath. One recent study investigating cryotherapy (a bag of crushed ice) to relieve perineal pain after episiotomy, found that the cooler the temperature, the more pain relief.

You can imagine that cold water is quite the shock and not what we think of when it comes to comfort, but if you look at how we treat other injuries to our bodies, cold packs are quite normal in that context. Feel free to try both and decide which you prefer.

Cold water helps to reduce the swelling more effectively than warm water.

When to Use

The postpartum sitz bath can be done often throughout the day and is a lot easier than getting into the bathtub. If you do not have a portable sitz bath sent home with you, you can generally sit in the tub filled 2-3 inches with warm water for the same effect. Or you can order a portable sitz bath for your home, like the Yungatart sitz bath shown.

Or rest assured that an entire body of recent research, with titles like Kill the Sitz Bath and Save the Planet, recommends the use of a detachable shower head to achieve the same cleansing and soothing effect. Another study, drawing on research largely in gynecologic and nursing journals, came up with no real scientific evidence supporting the use of a sitz bath at all, at least so far as the treatment of anorectal conditions like tears and hemmorrhoids.

The same research found that cold sitz bath reportedly decreased perineal swelling more than a warm sitz bath, and patients tended to prefer the cold bath. There has been a very small study showing that using a common sitz bath at a hospital potentially spread some infections. This is a very old study, but it may influence how your local hospitals provide care. If you are concerned, you can ask about using a portable sitz bath.

7 Sources
Verywell Family 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.
  1. Ramler D, Roberts J. A Comparison of Cold and Warm Sitz Baths for Relief of Postpartum Perineal Pain. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 1986 Nov-Dec;15(6):471-474. doi:10.1111/j.1552-6909.1986.tb01426.x

  2. Beleza, ACS et al. Effect of cryotherapy on relief of perineal pain after vaginal childbirth with episiotomy: a randomized and controlled clinical trial. Physiotherapy. December 2017;103(4):453 - 458. doi:10.1016/

  3. The Bump. Postpartum Recovery Tips for Treating Your Vagina After Birth. By Ashlee Neuman. Chevy Chase, Md.: The Bump 2020

  4. Gottesman L. Kill the Sitz Bath and Save the Planet. Dis Colon Rectum. 2018;61(6):645-646. doi:10.1097/DCR.0000000000001110

  5. Abcarian H. Instead of a Sitz Bath, Use a Detachable Shower Head. Dis Colon Rectum. 2018;61(10):e367. doi:10.1097/DCR.00000000000011 Ba94

  6. Tejirian T, Abbas MA. Sitz bath: where is the evidence? Scientific basis of a common practice. Dis Colon Rectum. 2005;48(12):2336-2340. doi:10.1007/s10350-005-0085-x

  7. Wiesenthal AM. A maternal-neonatal outbreak of infections due to an unusual group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus. Infect Control. 1984;5(6):271-274. doi:10.1017/s0195941700060318

Additional Reading

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.