If you have recently had an episiotomy (cut between vagina and anus) performed during childbirth or hemorrhoid surgery, your physician may have recommended a sitz bath. A sitz bath can help naturally relieve the pain that is associated with these surgeries, without the need to use pharmaceutical medications.
What is a sitz bath?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the plastic sitz bath fits over an ordinary toilet seat and can be purchased at a pharmacy or medical supply store. Most sitz baths have the ability to provide a constant stream of warm water that can be quite soothing on the rectum or vulvar area. Any overflow of water is simply released into the toilet bowl below.
Sea, table or Epsom?
A saline solution is often added to the sitz bath after it is assembled according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The type of salt added to the sitz bath usually depends upon physician suggestion and preference. Table salt, also known as sodium chloride, is highly antiseptic and can be used in a sitz bath; however, non-iodized salt is preferred because some people are iodine sensitive. Epsom salts and sea salts are used most often in sitz baths. In fact, the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCPP) recommends the use of either Epsom salts or sea salt in a sitz bath.
If you do not have access to a plastic, portable sitz bath, you can also make a soothing sitz bath right in your bathtub. Fill the tub with a few inches of water, just enough to cover your hips and buttocks. Next, add either the table, Epsom or sea salt. You can experiment with how much salt you need to find relief, but the rule of thumb is usually one-half cup per one quart of water.
Salt and healing
If you have ever spent a day at the beach, you may have noticed that swimming in salt water can have a noticeable healing effect on the skin. That is because the minerals in salt contain antibacterial qualities that promote healing. Even the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, University of Michigan Health Systems, recommends soaking wounds in a warm, salt-water bath. According to the hospital’s instructions, ordinary table salt can be used.
Despite the name, Epsom salts are not actually a type of salt. Epsom salts are composed of a mineral compound known as magnesium sulfate (MgSO4), according to Chemistry Explained.com. And while there is no doubt that soaking in Epsom salts can be a healing experience; the healing mineral content in sea salt is higher; it is “pure” salt.
References and ResourcesMayo Clinic
American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCPP)
C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, University of Michigan Health Systems