The humble vaginal dilator - an absolutely invaluable tool for any women facing problems related to their vaginal opening. Vaginal dilator therapy can be used to make vaginal penetration easier and less painful for women who suffer from conditions such as vaginal atrophy or dyspareunia (pain during sex), and can be beneficial for re-training the pelvic floor muscles nearby.
That being said, there are different vaginal dilator types that can be used in vaginal dilator therapy. Rigid plastic vaginal dilators are one kind, but dilator therapy with these types of dilators can often be uncomfortable. That’s why many pelvic health training courses recommend the use of using a vaginal dilator, or an entire set of dilators, made out of silicone instead.
Firstly let’s just quickly cover what silicone vaginal dilators actually are. Vaginal dilators are tube-shaped instruments that are inserted into the vaginal opening, either unaided or with the use of personal lubricant.
Vaginal dilators can be used to retrain the body and vagina to relax when presented with stimulus around the vulva (known as desensitization therapy). If you have dyspareunia or vaginismus, dilators can help lessen pain and muscle spasms, and help you learn how to control, and relax, your pelvic floor muscles. They can also help you warm up to sex if you’re feeling apprehensive or need to prepare your tissues and muscles for sexual intercourse!
Vaginal dilators are also used in dilator therapy to gently stretch the vagina walls, preventing narrowing and improving flexibility of the tissues. Because they come in a range of sizes you can work up from a smaller size to a larger size over time. This gentle stretching can be helpful post menopause or in the wake of cancer treatments that might reduce your sexual health because of reduced estrogen.
Each person’s needs are different when it comes to vaginal relaxation and dilation therapy. Additionally, not everyone’s pelvic floor muscles work the same, as some might be too loose, too tight, or even - in some instances - both. That’s why it’s so common to have a wide range of vaginal dilator sizes and types. You can find dilators of all types including silicone, rigid, plastic and even vibrating ones, though we do think that silicone ones offer some of the best results for women looking to use a vaginal dilator.
First, dilators made with medical-grade silicone have a natural texture. They’re softer than regular plastic dilators and feel more natural, making them easier to handle and insert. And because they have a natural texture that’s close to body tissue, a silicone vaginal dilator is incredibly comfortable and can help make your vaginal relaxation exercises or dilation therapy that much more effective.
These dilators also have a natural-feeling heft to them. Their natural weight allows for proprioceptive feedback - basically, making it easier for your body to recognise the dilator and relax. This is one of the most important aspects of treating issues like vaginismus, dyspareunia, or a pelvic floor dysfunction, as being able to relax means that it’s easier to fit the dilator completely inside you without having to worry about muscle tension making the process difficult or painful.
Silicone also offers excellent temperature control. Silicone dilators can be chilled in the fridge, used at room temperature, or warmed in hot water - whatever is most comfortable for you, this dilator can accommodate you. That’s why many feel that using silicone makes for the best vaginal dilators.
Silicone is also body safe. It’s not made with any nasty plastics, phthalates or BPA, so this makes any dilator safe to use without having to worry that you might be doing yourself harm while trying to help heal yourself.
The resiliency of silicone is also a great selling point when it comes to these types of dilators. You can use them for as long as you need without having to worry about them wearing out because the silicone makes them super resilient and durable. Be careful, though - if you use lubricant with your silicone dilators, make sure to only use water-based lubes (our favorite is from Intimate Rose)! This is because silicon-based lubricants can actually begin to break down the silicone used to manufacture your dilator - and that’s a big no-no.
Finally, these types of dilators are so easy to care for. Just a simple hand wash and air dry and they’re good to go, especially if you use a water-based lube that washes off easily. And if needed, they can also be sterilized.. However, regular washing after use is usually enough to keep these dilators clean and ready for their next use.
Whether you’re using a silicone one, one made of hard plastic, or any other type of dilator, they’re relatively easy to use. As many dilators come in sets of gradually increasing size, begin with the largest dilator size you can fit inside you with the least amount of discomfort. Depending on the amount of dilator therapy you need, this may be the smallest dilator in the set or one larger; what matters is that you can wear it comfortably. If necessary, use a healthy amount of personal lubricant to ensure you can insert the dilator safely.
From there, you will need to follow your doctor or physiotherapist’s instructions closely. They will tell you how long you should leave your dilator in for at a time, and how often you should train with it inside you. You may start wearing it for just a few minutes a day until you can tolerate it better before wearing it for longer, or wearing it multiple days every week.
Finally, once you and your doctor feel you have made progress with your currently-sized dilator, you can graduate up to the next largest in your dilator set and start the process all over again. This makes using dilators a process that requires patience and consistency, but the results pay off!