Vaginal dilator therapy is used to treat vaginal penetration issues, and relieve pain experienced during sexual intercourse. By gradually mobilizing the vaginal tissues, vaginal dilator therapy helps women to relax tight pelvic floor muscles, improve vaginal muscle elasticity, and reignite sexual pleasure after radiation treatment or surgery.
Read on, for more information on the benefits of vaginal dilator therapy, what conditions it treats, where to buy dilators, and how to do vaginal dilator therapy at home.
Made from either plastic or medical-grade silicone, vaginal dilators are cylinder or tube-shaped devices that typically resemble a cylinder. They are used to relieve pelvic pain disorders, relax vaginal tightness, and restore sexual pleasure by training the mind and the body to expect pain-free penetration.
Available in ascending dimensions that range from the size of a small finger to an erect penis, the variety in dilator sizes allows users to slowly relax and gently stretch the vagina over time. Often sold in sets that include a complete range of sizes, vaginal dilators help women to build confidence around vaginal penetration, and relax during pelvic exams, tampon insertion, and sexual intercourse.
Typically used in conjunction with pelvic floor physiotherapy, vaginal dilator therapy has two main purposes. One is to relieve the anxiety of having something inserted into the vagina and the second is to restore elasticity to dry or thinning vaginal muscles due to hormonal changes, skin conditions, radiation, or surgery. See our guide to using dilators for vaginal atrophy.
The desired result at the end of vaginal dilator therapy is that patients learn to relax the pelvic area and enjoy a more pleasurable sexual experience.
Many women suffer from a fear or underlying anxiety about sex. Although the cause of this sexual anxiety is unknown, it is believed to stem from a fear that penetrative sex is going to be painful. This fear initiates a panic mode in the pelvic area, triggering a spasming of the vaginal muscles, which causes the vagina to constrict at the thought of penetration, and ultimately results in painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia).
It can happen to teenagers who are worried about their first sexual encounter, sexual abuse victims, new mothers after traumatic childbirth, post-menopausal women who experience vaginal dryness due to a lack of estrogen, and those who have undergone radiation therapy or surgery for an imperforate hymen or vaginal septum.
Once the underlying cause of anxiety has been addressed, vaginal dilator therapy is used to gradually eradicate the muscle memory associated with putting something in the vagina. By beginning with the smallest dilator, typically the size of a small finger, patients learn to relax and gently stretch the vaginal muscles until the size feels comfortable inside the vagina. Only then do they move to the next size dilator and the next, until they ultimately feel comfortable with a dilator the size of an average penis inside the vagina.
Through this gentle and gradual process, vaginal dilator therapy helps women to build confidence and feel more comfortable when it comes to sex with a real penis.
The second purpose of vaginal dilator therapy addresses women who have previously enjoyed their sexual experiences but have found it altered due to hormonal changes, scar tissue after radiation therapy or surgery, as well as vaginal skin conditions. Several underlying conditions such as; endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic trauma, uterine fibroids, or vaginitis can also tighten the vaginal muscles and make sex uncomfortable.
In the above-mentioned cases, vaginal dilator therapy helps to reverse vaginal tightness by increasing blood flow to the vaginal muscles and improving natural lubrication. Once again, your pelvic floor physiotherapist would recommend the size of the dilator with which to start your therapy. As soon as the size feels comfortable to insert and leave in the vagina for 10-15 minutes up to three times per week, you will gradually increase in dilator size until it feels comfortable to insert a dilator the size of an average penis.
Through vaginal dilator therapy, it is possible to relieve vaginal atrophy due to menopause, reduce scar tissue after cancer treatment or surgery, and relax the vaginal muscles to enjoy sex again.
Closely linked to the two main purposes of vaginal dilator therapy are the post-surgical treatments for a vaginal septum and an imperforate hymen.
A vaginal septum is a wall of tissue, formed during fetal development, that divides the vagina into two parts. After surgery to remove a vaginal septum, vaginal dilator therapy is recommended to reduce scar tissue, lower the risk of stenosis, and allow patients to become used to full vaginal penetration over time.
An imperforate hymen is when the hymen, or thin membrane at the entrance of the vagina, does not ‘break’ naturally and requires surgery to create an opening. In these cases, vaginal dilator therapy is recommended to maintain the opening during the post-surgery healing process and allow the patient to slowly adapt to vaginal penetration.
There are several types of dilators available for purchase on the internet but not all of them come recommended. To ensure you are purchasing the right size and type for you, it’s always best to consult with a pelvic floor physiotherapist in your area before you buy.
Intimate Rose Vaginal Dilators are used by the official Academy of Pelvic Health for training purposes. In addition, female health experts have described Intimate Rose Vaginal Dilators as the best vaginal dilators on the market today.
Made from smooth medical-grade silicone with a life-life feel, Intimate Rose Vaginal Dilators are BPA-free and come in a set of eight ascending sizes. They are also available in a smaller set of four ascending sizes, or for the budget-friendly shopper, they can be bought individually to add more sizes as you progress through your therapy.
When it comes to size, Intimate Rose dilators start at 0.45 inches in diameter and 2.8 inches long, increasing incrementally to 1.5 inches in diameter and 6.5 inches long, which is the size of an average penis.
Although vaginal dilator therapy usually begins during a session with your pelvic floor physiotherapist, once they have determined the correct starting size, they will also recommend that you practice at home for best results.
In case you need a refresher, we’ve put together the following guide for using vaginal dilators at home.
Recommended for women with pelvic pain disorders, experiencing pain during sex, vaginal dryness during menopause, or recovering from radiation or cervical surgery; vaginal dilator therapy relaxes tight vaginal muscles, improves natural lubrication, builds confidence for vaginal penetration, and improves sexual pleasure.
If you can relate to any of the symptoms or conditions discussed in this article, contact a pelvic floor physiotherapist in your area, or ask your healthcare provider for a referral, to discuss whether vaginal dilator therapy is right for you.
Science Direct – Vaginal Dilators - https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/vaginal-dilator
Oxford University Hospitals - Vaginal Dilator Exercises - https://www.ouh.nhs.uk/patient-guide/leaflets/files/30804Pexercises.pdf
Mayo Clinic – Dysapeurnia - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/painful-intercourse/symptoms-causes/syc-20375967
National Library of Medicine - Vaginal Dilator Therapy for Women Receiving Pelvic Radiotherapy - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6513398/
National Library of Medicine - Management of Recurrent Stricture Formation after Transverse Vaginal Septum Excision - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4442265/
National Library of Medicine - Dilator Use following Vaginal Brachytherapy for Endometrial Cancer: A Randomized Feasibility and Adherence Study - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5650953/