A Beginner's Guide to Female Dilators
For women experiencing painful vaginal penetration, vaginal dilator therapy is by far the most common treatment. Vaginal dilators are tube-shaped devices designed to help relax and lengthen a vagina, restore vaginal capacity, and allow for more comfortable sexual activity. Dilators come in a variety of graduated sizes and weights and can be used in the treatment of vaginismus.
"Vaginal dilators have been prescribed by doctors and health care experts for decades and have proven to be an effective form of physical therapy in helping women have a pain-free sex life they enjoy"
What are Dilators ?
Dilators may resemble a sex-toy, but they are in fact a medical device. The main point of a dilator is to help strengthen and lengthen pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor is a sling that cups and supports the bowel, bladder, and uterus in women and bladder and bowel for men. The hammock-like sling also plays a vital role in maintaining bowel and bladder control and sexual function and sensation.
Put simply, a dilator as a vaginal expander that helps improve vaginal issues.
What medical conditions do Dilators treat?
People seek treatment with vaginal dilators for a variety of medical reasons. Experiencing muscle tension and pain during sexual intercourse isn’t uncommon and there are a variety of reasons for uncomfortable penetration including:
- Tearing or lesions inside the vagina
- Menopause (Vaginal Atrophy)
- Fear of Penetration due to Sexual Trauma
- Pelvic inflammatory disease or infection
- Vulvodynia (undiagnosed condition for the pain)
- Pelvic radiation therapy
- Vaginal stenosis
If you suspect you’re suffering from any above conditions, you should check with your GP before starting treatment.
How do Dilators work?
Having a healthy sex life is essential for most women. However, when you have fear, or extreme pain during any kind of penetration, this can seriously inhibit or limit a woman’s sex life and using a dilator is often prescribed to help improve sexual intimacy by lengthening and stretching the vagina naturally.
Dilators work by slowly widening your vagina. As vaginal dilators come in different shapes and sizes, you choose the size right for you and are always in control of the process. Also, as you use vaginal trainers in the privacy of your own home it means that you can focus solely on yourself and control the pace of treatment so that you’re comfortable with it.
There is no set time frame for dilator therapy and can vary significantly from person to perons but generally it can take a few months or even longer for dilator therapy to work thoroughly and make the vagina more elastic.
Breaking the Brain and Pain cycle
Making the decision to use a vaginal dilator may not be easy for many women. It’s not just the idea of inserting something up their vagina but also having to overcome the physical and emotional barriers connected to having a tight vagina.
When you have a painful experience, especially in the pelvic area, your brain and body remember it. You can have underlying anxiety and fear surrounding that negative experience. It’s only natural, it’s your brain’s way of protecting you after all! You need to find a way to break this viscous cycle of fear, muscle tension, pain and then more fear. Dilator training, when done properly, can help to lessen the ‘danger signals’ your brain sends as you create a calm and pain free experience you are able to control.
How to Use a Dilator
Inserting a vaginal dilator is simple and shouldn’t cause any pain if done slowly and gently. This whole process should take a total of about 10-15 minutes.
Start in a comfortable position on your back. You should have your legs open in a ‘frog legged’ position with your knees supported by pillows so that you can relax your muscles. Try to make sure that your head and upper body are adequately propped up by pillows or your headboard so that you can easily reach your pelvis.
Choose the smallest size dilator in your kit. Apply a generous amount of lubricant to the dilator and the opening of your vagina. Use a water-based lubricant such as S8 Water Based Aloe Vera Lube or WICKED Sensitive Waterbased Lubricant. This will help the dilator slide more easily into your vagina (Avoid using oil and silicone-based lubricants because they don’t wash off the dilator easily).
Place the dilator at the entrance to your vagina. Focus on how that feels and how your body responds. Slow your breathing and focus on releasing any muscle tension. Slowly progress the dilator into the vagina. Always insert it in the direction of your spine (back) straight or at a slightly downward angle, like you would insert a tampon.
Focus on the sensation and try to release muscle tension from your body. Remember to relax your body by taking deep breaths. If you meet resistance, stop, and let your body unwind before progressing any further. If you think about pain on a scale of 1-10, with one being the lowest and ten the highest, your pain should not be higher than 3 or 4 when dilating.
After inserting the vaginal dilator, the amount of time inside the vagina depends on your comfort level but, if possible, leave the dilator in place for 10 minutes whilst you practice relaxation techniques. The longer you insert the dilator, the more effective the treatment is over time. Consider placing a small rolled-up towel against the inserted dilator so you can fully relax. Alternatively, you may feel like experimenting by moving the dilator around to mimic a sexual experience.
Initially, you may only be able to stretch the vagina for a few minutes each session or may not be able to fully insert the dilator each time. Don’t become discouraged if this is the case as it is very normal, just give yourself time to heal and allow the treatment to work.
Also, be aware that in the beginning it is not uncommon to experience some slight bleeding after inserting the vaginal dilator. Light bleeding is normal, but if it’s heavy or continues longer than a day, consult with your doctor. You may want to wear a panty liner after dilator therapy.
How often Should you use a Dilators?
It is recommended that you practice dilator therapy 3-4 times per week but try not to do it 2 or more days in a row. Doing dilator therapy for too many days in a row may cause pain or irritation. On days when you are not using your vaginal dilator you might find it beneficial to do some Kegel exercises.
Dilator therapy is most effective when undertaken on a regular basis but if you forget to do your dilator therapy, or simply don’t have time to do it, don’t give up. Try to start again as soon as possible. Also, try to be patient as Pelvic floor rehabilitation takes time to be effective, but as your muscle tension decreases and you have less pelvic pain, you can decrease how often you should use dilators.
Aim to Gradually Increase the Size of the Dilator
The goal of vaginal dilator therapy is to increase the size of your dilators slowly. When you can insert one size of a dilator completely into your vagina without any discomfort, then you should start using the next size up. Bear in mind it may take weeks or months before you’re prepared to increase the dilator size. Increasing the size over time will help you have more comfortable pelvic exams, vaginal sex, or both.
A Word of Caution ......
It is not recommended to use dilators during sexual activity. Vaginal dilators are therapy devices designed to help improve female sexuality and stretch and lengthen a tight vagina, not used for sexual pleasure.