| Caroline Knight
Dilators for Dyspareunia: Home Treatment for Painful Sex
Dyspareunia is the name for painful sex, whether the pain occurs before, during or after intercourse. As you might imagine, dyspareunia can have a wide range of causes, some of which are physiological and some psychological. It is important to try and discover the reason for painful sex, because the problem can become a vicious cycle that damages self-esteem and relationships, as well as taking away your enjoyment of a vital component of life. Of the various home treatments for painful sex, many women use dilators for dyspareunia, and with great success.
If you are suffering from dyspareunia and want to find some relief, we are here to help you understand the potential causes of dyspareunia and what you can do to relieve it. It is absolutely possible to re-establish a healthy sex life, free from pain and worry. Read on to learn more about home treatment for painful sex and treating dyspareunia with dilators…
Why is sex painful? The causes of dyspareunia
Although it isn’t always easy to pinpoint the reasons sex hurts, rest assured that it is always possible. Dyspareunia might get better without treatment, and in some instances it does; however, it isn’t wise to count on this, in case there is an underlying condition that needs treatment.
During sexual activity, women produce lubrication via small glands near the opening of the birth canal (the Bartholin glands). If you are not sufficiently turned on and relaxed, these glands may not secrete enough fluid, so friction is more likely to occur during penetration. Friction can lead to rubbing, chafing and burning sensations, and sometimes even negative associations with sex.
Other physical reasons for dyspareunia include:
- Vulvodynia (pain/inflammation in or around the vaginal opening)
- An underlying infection (such as a yeast infection, STD or lichen sclerosis)
- Pudendal neuralgia (nerve damage in the pelvic region)
- Vaginal atrophy (most likely after menopause or radiation treatment)
- After effects of pelvic surgery (such as a hysterectomy)
- Post-partum dyspareunia
- Vaginismus (muscles are contracting)
- Vaginal Stenosis (vaginal scar tissue)
- Lichen Sclerosis (autoimmune disease that causes white, flaky patches on Vulva)
There may also be psychological reasons for painful sex, including:
Vaginismus is a common condition that most often has psychological roots, and leads to negative anticipation around sexual intercourse. The woman becomes afraid of penetration, and as a result the vaginal muscles will contract involuntarily or go into spasm. This feels very uncomfortable – sometimes even painful – and any attempts to have sex are either painful, impossible, or both. For these reasons, vaginismus is a common cause of dyspareunia.
Loss of libido, diminished attraction to your partner, or performance anxiety can all lead to painful sex because the Bartholin glands won’t produce enough fluids. The same goes for historic sexual or psychological trauma or mood disorders.
When you are able to pinpoint the reason for dyspareunia, it will be a lot easier to treat. Some women require extensive treatment such as psychological therapy, while others may need to deal with an underlying physical condition. Many women find relief through simple lubrication products and using vaginal dilators for painful sex.
Who gets dyspareunia?
Dyspareunia can affect women of all ages, and all walks of life. There is no straight answer to this question. Statistics vary somewhat, but indicate that it may be more likely to affect younger women, and peri-menopausal or post-menopausal women. Worldwide, dyspareunia affects between 3 and 18% of women; it can affect between 10 and 28% of the population in a lifetime.
According to the BMJ (British Medical Journal) dyspareunia affects around 7.5% of sexually active women aged between 16 and 74.
Are there different types of dyspareunia?
Yes, there are actually two types of dyspareunia: superficial dyspareunia and deep dyspareunia. In order to treat painful sex effectively, it is a good idea to determining whether the pain is superficial or deep. In other words, where are you feeling pain during sexual intercourse? A pelvic floor physical therapist can help you determine which type you may be dealing with.
Superficial dyspareunia is the name for the pain you might feel during the initial stages of penetration. Pain can occur for any of the following reasons:
- Your partner’s penis is too large for your vaginal opening
- Your hymen is not broken, or is particularly thick
- You have vaginismus, vulvodynia or an underlying infection
- You have not produced sufficient lubrication
Deep dyspareunia refers to pain in the upper region of the vagina (the cervix, womb or ovaries). This pain is often triggered by thrusting action, and can be characterized by an ache, or a burning or tearing feeling. Women who have a history of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), endometriosis or ovarian cysts may experience deep dyspareunia.
Home treatments for dyspareunia
We are huge advocates of vaginal dilators for dyspareunia, because we have seen positive results in so many of our customers, who happily verify their dilator success stories with testimonials! Our clinical trials also yielded extremely positive results, so we are very happy to share this information in support of your healing journey.
Since dyspareunia pain is generally obvious to anyone who has it, it is often self-diagnosed. Although in some instances it is necessary to have this confirmed (and perhaps treated) by a qualified healthcare provider, there are many dyspareunia treatments you can try at home.
A first port of call would be a water-based personal lubricant, which you can use right before you have sex to make penetration easier and more comfortable. If you have had recurring issues with vaginal dryness (as many women with vaginal atrophy do) you may want to try a vaginal moisturizer like Replens, which hydrates the tissues and improves elasticity and thickness. You can also use Replens with vaginal dilators.
Can you use vaginal dilators for dyspareunia?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, women all around the world use vaginal dilators for painful sex. If you are suffering from spasms or tightness in the vagina, or you tend to avoid sex because you fear pain, dilators are a great option for you.
The Imperial College Healthcare in London advocates dilator use for women suffering from superficial dyspareunia or vaginismus, because dilators can ease anticipatory anxiety by reconditioning the brain-body reconnection and training the muscles to relax. VuVa magnetic vaginal dilators are particularly helpful since the Neodymium magnets help to calm irritated nerves and increase blood flow to minimize inflammation.
Dilator therapy is recognized as one of the best home pelvic therapy treatments for dyspareunia. Pelvic floor physical therapists all around the world recommend them as part of their treatment programs, often with great success – particularly when carried out in conjunction with relaxation exercises and pelvic floor stretches.
What are vaginal dilators?
Dilators are plastic or silicone tubes specifically designed to gently and gradually stretch out the vagina to increase its capacity or condition it for comfortable penetration. Dilators come in various sizes, so you can work your way up from the smallest to the largest according to your comfort levels.
It is a good idea to use a lubricating gel with your dilators, especially if you have dyspareunia. Note that it is normal to experience some level of discomfort until you become accustomed to the size of dilator you’re using. However, you should not be in extreme pain – if you are, you should seek the assistance of a medical professional.
Once your dilator feels completely comfortable you can move up to the next size. The length of time you use dilators for will depend on your personal circumstances and the condition you are working to treat. Generally speaking, dilator therapy timeframes range from a few weeks to a few months. Some people may need to use them permanently.
Other tips for dealing with dyspareunia
The following tactics might ease the symptoms of dyspareunia:
- Trying different sexual positions when you feel pain, so you control the depth and intensity of penetration or thrusting
- Talk to your partner. It may be that he is not fully aware of all the signs you’re in pain, especially if you’ve been accustomed to masking it. Let him know when something feels good, and when it doesn’t
- Try perineal massage (especially helpful for vaginismus and vulvodynia pain)
- Ensure you have plenty of foreplay before penetrative sex
- Read the labels on your meds, in case there are side effects like dryness or loss of libido
We hope that you are now ready to try some of our recommendations for home dyspareunia treatment, and that you have all the resources you need if trying dilators for dyspareunia. If anything is unclear, we will do our best to help – just drop us a line and we will get back to you as soon as possible.