What are vaginal dilators?
Dilators are a therapeutic tool that are often used in the treatment of painful vaginal penetration. In general, they are a systematic way to increase the size of the object being placed inside the vaginal opening. Each brand is slightly different in shape, material, and total number in the set, so you can choose the right kind for your needs. Many people work with a pelvic physical therapist while they are using dilators, so your PT can also help you navigate this choice!
To read more about painful sex and how pelvic PT can help, check out our article here!
Some of our favorite dilator sets include:
- Soul Source
- Silicone, full set includes 8 sizes
- Intimate Rose
- Silicone, full set includes 8 sizes
- Dr. Laura Berman Intimate Basics
- Plastic with option for vibration, full set includes 4 sizes
HOW TO USE VAGINAL DILATORS
Everyone’s needs are unique, and the suggestions outlined below may not be the best for you! Our main goal is to create a safe environment in which you can challenge yourself. If you feel significant pain or distress while using dilators, it is likely too much too soon for your body to adapt. If you need help managing your dilator therapy, a pelvic PT is the expert ready to help you!
- Wash and dry the dilator(s) you will be using
- Find a quiet space where you can relax without being distracted
- Get into a comfortable position. For many people, this is lying on their back with their knees in a diamond/butterfly shape. Pillows under your head, upper back, and knees will allow you to relax.
- Generously apply a lubricant to your dilator. If you are using a silicone dilator, you should not use silicone-based lubricant. Read more about lubricants here!
- Empty your bladder if you need to, but no need to go just in case.
Using the dilator:
- Choose a dilator size that you are able to insert with mild discomfort or feeling of resistance from your muscles. It should not cause pain, but if it goes in quickly and easily you should probably go up in size. If you’re nervous about trying a larger size, it’s ok to start with one you’re confident in and then swap it out for the next one!
- Leave the dilator in place. For some, relaxing into the presence of the dilator inside the vaginal opening is helpful. Mindful breathing and calming anxious thoughts can happen here.
- Practice contracting and relaxing. Dilators can help you build awareness and coordination of the pelvic floor. Do a gentle pelvic floor contraction (Kegel) around the dilator and then fully relax. Repeat a few times to help relax into the presence of the dilator inside the vagina.
- Move the dilator. Some find it helpful to practice feeling the dilator move back and forth inside the vaginal opening. You can go at your own pace, working up to faster and deeper movement as you are comfortable.
- Some people feel uncomfortable on their back with legs apart. Dilators can also be used while laying on your side, standing with one foot on a step, seated on a toilet, or any other variation that allows you to feel safe and relaxed.
- At some point, people often enjoy involving their partners in the process. Partners can be present and participating in dilator therapy non-sexually. In addition, using dilators in sexual intimacy can help bridge the gap between dilator therapy and penetrative sex.
- In general, we see that a 10-15 minute session 3-4 times per week is enough to see good progress without burning out.
- We recommend using a maximum of 2-3 dilator sizes in a given session.
- Some people report that they are more successful and motivated when pleasure and arousal is involved in their dilator practice, and others prefer to keep it separate. The decision is up to you, and you can change your practice with time and experimentation!