| Tara Langdale
A Comprehensive Guide to Vaginal Dilators: Benefits, Usage, and Tips for Effective Results
Vaginal dilators are small cylindrical devices that can be inserted into the vagina. They look a little like sex toys but have a very different purpose. Also known as vaginal expanders or vaginal trainers, these tools are used to improve a wide range of gynecological conditions.
Many people use dilators to improve temporary or chronic sexual pain, or tightness in the pelvic floor. Due to the way they are used, vaginal dilators must be made from hypoallergenic materials. A good quality dilator will be made from either medical grade plastic or silicone. You can buy dilators in sets, or as singular units, depending on your needs.
The purpose of vaginal dilators is to expand or increase vaginal capacity and elasticity by putting gentle pressure on the walls of the vagina and the opening. Over time dilators stretch the tissues and muscles to help users become accustomed to the sensation of penetration. They also calm any nerves that give off pain. Dilators ultimately facilitate healing, improving physical, mental and sexual health.
Understanding Vaginal Dilators
You can use vaginal dilators to stretch and dilate your vaginal walls, creating more space and stretchiness in the tissues. They can train your vaginal muscles to get used to penetration, and encourage more blood flow to your vaginal tissues. This extra blood flow is especially helpful for healing pain conditions and atrophy. After a while, dilator therapy makes sexual activity or gynecological examinations much more comfortable and can help you to mentally relax a lot more.
Conditions vaginal dilators can treat
Vaginal dilator therapy is a safe and effective, tried-and-tested way to treat women’s sexual health concerns. Some of the most common conditions dilators can treat are vaginismus, vulvodynia and vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis). These conditions tend to cause a lot of vaginal pain and tightness, as well as inflammation.
Women who have been through the menopause, or have had some kind of pelvic surgery or pelvic radiation therapy (such as brachytherapy) may suffer from vaginal atrophy when hormones have declined. Pelvic radiation treatments may also cause vaginal stenosis, a shortening and tightening of the birth canal due to scar tissue formation. With either condition, the vagina may start to shrink or close, and the tissues can become irritated and sore.
With vaginismus, the vaginal muscles constrict painfully at the prospect of penetration. Both conditions lead to decreased vaginal capacity, causing pain and discomfort. By stretching the vaginal walls gently with dilators, you can re-open the vagina at a pace you are comfortable with.
Dyspareunia is the name for painful sex, which is a common problem that does not always have a known cause. The BJOG published statistics in 2017 indicating that 7.5% of sexually active women experience painful sex and subsequent distress, with symptoms appearing ‘often or always’ for a quarter of study participants. Painful sex was strongly associated with other sexual issues, in particular vaginal dryness, sexual anxiety or lack of sexual enjoyment.
The Imperial College Healthcare in London recommends using dilators for dyspareunia or vaginismus as they can ease anticipatory anxiety. Dilators essentially recondition the brain-body connection and train vaginal muscles to relax.
Other problems you can treat with vaginal dilators include:
- Vulvar vestibulitis
- Pudendal neuralgia
- Vaginal agenesis
- Gender reassignment surgery
- Interstitial cystitis
Dilator sizes and materials
Medical grade plastic vaginal dilators are smooth. They are the best option for very tight muscles, such as with a hypertonic pelvic floor or vaginismus. As they are firm and inflexible they can be used to treat trigger points during pelvic floor physical therapy. With regular use, plastic dilators also break down scar tissue and adhesions.
Medical grade silicone vaginal dilators are softer, more porous and flexible that plastic dilators. This can make insertion easier for those who have high pain levels or inflammation. Silicone dilators adapt to your body heat and can be cooled in the fridge to ease pain levels. The downside can be that they are harder to insert when muscles are tight and they are not as effective for trigger points or removing scar tissue.
Neodymium magnetic vaginal dilators (designed and patented by VuVa) are clinically tested, highly effective dilators. They contain 60 neodymium magnets, which draw out the negative ions in the vagina. This process encourages freshly oxygenated blood flow throughout the pelvic area, calming nerves and increasing elasticity and lubrication. The blood flow also releases acidity, which accelerates healing. They are very helpful for both pain relief and stretching.
Dilators come in various sizes from small to large to cater for different requirements. Size 1 is comparable to a pencil, and size 2 is around the size of a woman's pinky finger. Size 3 or 4 dilators would suit those who can easily insert a larger tampon, or have very tight muscles or atrophy pain. Sexually active women can start with a size 4 or 5. Sizes 6 and 7 can be helpful for women with a larger partner, or to tolerate pelvic examinations.
You can move up through the different dilator sizes as your capacity increases.
Benefits of Using Vaginal Dilators
Dilators are very useful in treating pelvic floor dysfunction, such as a hypertonic pelvic floor (excessive tightness). The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that supports the bowel, bladder, and uterus in women. It is shaped like a hammock and maintains bowel and bladder control, as well as sexual function and sensation. Dilators work by stretching the pelvic floor muscles and releasing tight points.
The pelvic floor can also become weak (hypotonic) through diminished activity, leading to inappropriate coordination of the muscles. You can do Kegel exercises and squeeze the vaginal muscles around dilators to help retrain the muscles and strengthen the pelvic floor.
Vaginal dilators can reduce sexual pain during intercourse by increasing blood flow to the vaginal walls and relaxing tight, tense or sore vaginal muscles. Over time your brain will learn to anticipate penetration with the dilators, and subsequently allow relaxation with other kinds of penetration. The more often you practice inserting a vaginal dilator, the more your vagina will expand, gradually increasing in size. This also makes sexual activity much more comfortable over time.
As well as reducing physical pain and tension, dilators enhance feelings of sexual well-being by increasing your confidence levels with consistent use. It is a case of becoming accustomed to the sensation of penetration and stretching in private, at a pace you are comfortable with.
Other benefits of using vaginal expanders are:
- Aiding recovery after surgery or childbirth trauma
- Stimulating nerve endings
- Improving the experience of gynecological exams
- Increasing comfort during intercourse
- Reducing the formation of scar tissue and adhesions
A great number of women report improvement after dilator therapy. We regularly receive thanks and feedback in support of our dilators, which confirms their efficacy and encourages more women to seek this life-changing solution:
“This is a seriously life-changing product! I didn't have any idea as to why I was having trouble. I was scared that I might have this issue forever. Luckily, I did some research and came across this set. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I had hoped for the best. I started with #2 and #3. Three days later, I was able to do #4. A few days after that, I was able to do #5. Nearly two weeks later, I was able to do #6. I couldn't believe how fast it worked for me. I loved the breathing exercises and stretches recommended. I made sure to do those daily. As long as you are consistent, you will see results. This wonderful set helped me big time in solving a huge issue I was worried about. I'm so glad I found these tools. You'll love them too!”
“As a 19-year-old upon attempting intercourse for the first time I discovered it was not possible because of severe tightness in vagina. I never used tampons so was not aware something like this is possible. After some research I decided to give this set a try. This amazing product helped me in only 3 weeks to go from not been able to insert a finger to full intercourse pain free! You need to be patient when changing to a bigger size, keep trying and see some tips on the Q&A and blog. Thank you VuVaTech, you are a life saver!”
“I have been dealing with vaginal pain and pelvic issues for years, first due to endometriosis and then into menopause. The dilators have been the answer to making things so much better. I wish I had tried them sooner, I debated for a while, not sure if they could help. They absolutely help! Take it slow, start where you are comfortable, take your time, you will have very positive results physically and emotionally.”
Step-by-Step Guide on Using Vaginal Dilators
How to insert a dilator
When using a vaginal trainer, it is important to first lubricate the dilator and the vaginal opening with a water-based lubricant (always avoid petroleum jelly). Next, choose a private and comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed. A bed or couch is a good choice. Either lie on your back or in a foetal position, whichever is most comfortable.
Bend your knees and spread your legs to open the birth canal. It is important to breathe deeply in order to calm the nervous system and relax the muscles. It may help to visualize your muscles loosening, and to play peaceful music.
Before and after every use, remember to clean your dilator with a natural, non-irritating soap and warm water.
How long to use a dilator
When you are relaxed enough, insert your dilator as deeply into the vagina as you can tolerate. Remember that although it might be uncomfortable, you should not experience severe pain. If you do, you may need to use a smaller dilator or try again when you feel more relaxed.
When the dilator is correctly inserted, you should leave it in place for between 20 and 30 minutes. If this is too challenging at first, leave it in for as long as you can and gradually build up your time to 30 minutes.
You can use your dilator once or twice per day. It can take between 8 and 12 weeks to notice an increase in vaginal capacity or softening of the tissues and muscles. Many women get results and can move up a size at between 2 and 3 weeks, but it depends on how severe the condition is and how relaxed you are. Some people will need to use dilators permanently for maintenance, depending on their health condition.
How to choose the right size dilator
If you are especially tight, starting with the smallest size (size 1) is a good idea. Many women find that buying a set of dilators is easiest, so that they can move up through the sizes as and when you feel more comfortable. At first, introduce the tip to get an idea of how it feels. If it is easy to insert, you can try the next size up until you feel a stretching sensation.
Tips for Maximizing Results
In order to get the best from your vaginal trainer therapy, you can incorporate some of the following into your routine:
- Abdominal breathing exercises can relax your pelvic floor in advance of dilating
- Pelvic floor stretches (similar to basic yoga postures) will also relax your muscles
- Plan a regular time and place for dilating if possible, to get used to a routine
- Remember to think positively and visualize the outcome you want
- Track your progress in a diary so that you can monitor it effectively
- Take your time and feel free to take breaks if it gets too much
- Use a hypoallergenic personal lubricant every time
- Rotate your dilator a little to help loosen pelvic muscles
- If you are finding it difficult, seek emotional support from someone you trust, or a healthcare professional
- Once you feel totally comfortable with a dilator, move up to the next size, but don’t rush the process
- Don’t move around once your dilator is in place, as this can dislodge it or cause pain
- If you feel comfortable, you can read a book to help you relax more
- If you get urinary tract infections (UTIs), it might help to urinate after using your dilator
- If you experience extreme pain even with the appropriate size of dilator, seek the assistance of a medical professional (such a pelvic floor physical therapist)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do vaginal dilators help?
Vaginal dilators can help women of all ages by reducing fear of penetration, training both the mind and the vaginal muscles to relax, and calming muscle spasms. They reduce pain during intercourse, and increase blood flow to the tissues, which helps lubrication, cellular regeneration and elasticity. Dilators stretch and widen the birth canal whether due to a health condition, pelvic surgery, injuries, or a hysterectomy. They release and prevent the scar tissue and adhesions associated with radiation treatment. Finally, they maintain and improve tissue elasticity during periods of sexual inactivity.
Are vaginal dilators safe?
Yes, absolutely, providing the materials they are made from are medical grade. No known adverse side effects were reported in our clinical trial, which also proved efficacy and significant pain relief for many participants. VuVa Magnetic and Smooth Dilators are made of FDA approved, medical device grade polycarbonate. They are non-toxic, latex-free and waterproof. Our Silicone Dilators are also latex free, and are made from Medical Grade 6 Silicone.
Will I feel pain or bleed after using my dilator?
There can be a small amount of bleeding while using the dilator or after you’re finished using it. This is normal, and you can wear a panty liner. If bleeding continues for more than a day or is heavy, contact your healthcare provider. Although discomfort is normal, extreme pain is not and may mean you need to use a smaller dilator or seek the advice of a medical professional.
How do I know what sizes of dilators I need?
We recommended you start out with a size that you can insert with ease. Try inserting just the tip and gradually putting it further in from there. If this is too easy, move up a size, and if it’s too difficult, use a smaller dilator. You can buy single dilators to try them out, but we recommend a Combo Set or Full Set so that you always have the right size to hand. You can confirm the necessary sizes with your healthcare practitioner if needed.
Can I use dilators while I’m on my period?
Yes, you can use dilators at any time. Please take extra care in cleaning your dilators and allowing them to air dry before storage.
How long before sex or an exam should I use my dilator?
You can use your dilator right before sex, or before a gynecology exam, as this will help you to be ready for penetration. You can even use the dilator as part of foreplay, if you and your partner are open to it.
For women who experience pain or tightness with vaginal penetration, consistent dilator use is an effective and helpful therapy. It helps to keep the vaginal tissues pliable and extend the vaginal capacity, while reducing pain and anxiety around penetration. Dilators are suitable for use with a wide range of sexual health conditions, but it is important in many cases to receive an official diagnosis from a healthcare provider so that you can use your dilators most effectively. You may also wish to consult your healthcare professional for advice and guidance on usage with your condition.
VuVa Dilator Company Helpful Links:
Tara Langdale Schmidt is the inventor of the VuVa Dilator Company. She has pelvic floor dysfunction herself and wanted to create a dilator set that is made in America that women can trust. VuVatech has been in business since 2014 and has helped over 125,000 women all over the globe. She patented the Neodymium Vaginal Dilator, that is clinically proven to help with blood flow and nerve pain.
Podcast Episode 22: Tara Langdale-Schmidt
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