| Tara Langdale
What Is the Best Vaginal Dilator for You? A Guide
Did you know that many women feel some form of pain when attempting to engage in intimate activity with a sexual partner? While this might seem like a never-ending problem without a solution there are ways to ease the pain and get back to enjoying a normal sexual life.
If you've continued to experience sexual penetration pain (dyspareunia) when you attempt forms of intimacy, a vaginal dilator could help relax muscles while doing pelvic floor physical therapy at home. We understand this might sound odd, but we've taken this opportunity to fill you in on all the details you need to know about pelvic floor physical therapy with a vaginal dilator.
From how to use vaginal dilators to how to choose the right one for your needs, there's is a lot to learn. Let's get into it and help you get back to an intimate life that you deserve.
What is a Vaginal Dilator?
When you see a vaginal dilator, it's easy to compare it to a dildo which is a toy used for pleasure during couples' intercourse and individual masturbation. While similar in shape a vaginal dilator is considered a medical device and does not need to vibrate. Dilators are used in a medical setting everyday after surgery, chemotherapy and pelvic floor therapy appointments.
The purpose of the dilator is to help reduce pain caused by penetrative intercourse. The goal is that by using the dilator you can help your vagina dilate and reduce the anxiety you feel when it's time to engage in sexual activity. By using the dilator, it also helps create blood flow which in turn helps with natural lubrication.
Think of it as a safe warm-up to prepare your vagina and slowly stretch pelvic floor muscles to make it easier and less painful when you do decide you're ready for penetration. Another name you might find a vaginal dilator under is vaginal insert or vaginal trainer.
The VuVa Dilator company has designed their dilators with the help from pelvic floor physical therapists and doctors. The end is rounded to make it easier to insert when dilating the vagina. The sizes are graduated slightly to make progressing up in size easier.
Once inserted it helps your body and mind teach your vaginal muscles and tissues to relax. Often when people feel anxious about intercourse because of past pain, it can cause the muscles in the vagina to remain tense which can be a form of Vaginismus.
However, as you use the dilator you learn to relax while at the same time stretching the muscles and tissues in the process. An insert or dilator will help you to strengthen pelvic floor muscles that might have weakened over time.
Most of the time when you receive vaginal dilators they come in a kit. Having more than one size is key as you need to progress up in size during your home therapy. The kit will contain many sizes that can be used at different phases.
For example, it's your first time using a dilator you'll start with the smaller ones, and as you become more comfortable and stretched slowly work your way up in size.
Conditions Where Using a Vaginal Dilator Applies
There are several conditions where it's beneficial for women to use vaginal dilators. The conditions a woman might benefit from using an insert include:
- Imperforate hymen
- MRKH syndrome
- Vaginal Atrophy
- Post Menopausal Atrophic Vaginitis
- Post Cervical Radiation
- Vulvar Vestibulitis
- After Sexual Assault
During menopause, your estrogen hormone levels produced by your body drop significantly. This can cause your vaginal canal to become narrow and an increase in dryness. This condition is called Vaginal Atrophy and is very common after menopause.
The combination of these things can make intercourse extremely painful and less enjoyable for everyone involved. Vaginismus can occur when you know pain from penetration is coming and you tense up. You do not want this to happen due to your Atrophy, so using dilators is key in helping this not happen. Vaginismus is when the muscles within the vagina contract when penetration is attempted.
For many, this reaction to penetration is involuntary which also means they aren't able to relax to allow for penetration to continue. Because of the contraction of your muscles continued intimacy becomes painful and challenging.
Imperforate hymen is another condition where your primary doctor might recommend the use of a vaginal dilator because an imperforate hymen is when your hymen is blocking your vaginal canal from birth.
When this occurs, many will undergo surgery to repair/remove the issue. After surgery, it's common for your doctor to recommend you use vaginal dilators.
These dilators can be useful in helping you stretch your muscles as you continue to heal. The important thing to remember as you use a vaginal dilator regardless of the reason, you're using one is to be patient, breath and take your time.
Much like when you're exercising you can't jump right into things without warming up. If you find that you're not ready for a larger insert that's okay, you can go down a size and continue to stretch your muscles until you're ready.
How to Choose the Right Vaginal Dilator
There are several things to consider before you decide which type of vaginal dilator will work for you. Much like clothing or shoes, three are several types and choices you have.
Below we've gone in-depth about what makes the ideal dilator and the things to consider before you make your final choices.
Product Size Variety
When it comes to using a vaginal dilator, variety is best. For example, if you're having issues with muscle contractions during penetration a variety of dilator sizes make it easier to work up to penetration by stretching your vagina using the dilators and increasing the size over time.
Some vaginal dilator sets only come with one vaginal dilator for you to use while others come in a variety of sizes in it. If you're working towards a specific goal having more sizes to use will prove to be more beneficial for you than simply having one.
Another reason to have variety in sizes is that sometimes what might seem like a small size might still be too big for you. Therefore, you'd need to move to a lower size or if the size you're using is something you're comfortable with you can increase the size you're using.
It's understood that plastic products are going to be less expensive than dilators made of other types of materials. If you're purchasing inserts on a budget, we recommend going with the plastic option because they're more cost-effective.
However, if you don't mind spending more on the dilator kits you can opt for the magnetic option. VuVa's Neodymium Magnetic Dilators are twice as effective in reducing nerve pain. Here are stats from their clinical trial:
- Eighty percent (80%) of study subjects reported a decrease in overall pain after using the VuVa™ magnetic vaginal dilators.
- Subjects using the VuVa™ magnetic vaginal dilators experienced an average thirty percent (30%) decrease in pain levels on a standardized tampon test, which is a way to clinically measure pain associated with sexual intercourse.
- The cotton swab test evaluates eleven (11) different locations of the vulvar vestibule for pain. Eighty percent (80%) of the study subjects reported a decrease in the total number of locations after using the VuVa™ magnetic vaginal dilators.
- Subjects using the VuVa™ magnetic vaginal dilators experienced an average twenty eight percent (28%) decrease in pain levels using a standardized cotton swab test, which is a non-invasive measure of vaginal pain.
VuVa Clinical Trial Chief Investigator - Dr. Michael Swor
Dr. G. Michael Swor is an obstetrician-gynecologist in Sarasota, Florida and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Doctors Hospital of Sarasota and Sarasota Memorial Health Care System. He received his medical degree from University of South Florida College of Medicine and has been in practice for 34 years. Read the full clinical trial here.
How to Use Vaginal Dilators?
As we've mentioned before when you get ready to use a vaginal dilator it's normal for it to seem or feel intimidating. When your doctor suggested using it, they will walk you through how it works and how to prepare for the penetration.
It's important to listen carefully to the instructions for using a vaginal dilator to make sure you do not cause yourself more pain when using it. The steps you're given will help to make the experience better than if you were to jump right in without taking the proper precautions. Please read directions before use.Set Aside Time
Before you begin to use your insert set aside a specific amount of time you can do so without being interrupted. During this time, it might help if you create a calming atmosphere and do things like:
- Play relaxing or calming music
- Utilize aromatherapy
- Lower the lighting to promote relaxation
The entire process of stretching and using dilators will take time and the last thing you want to do is rush through the process and cause yourself more pain. After you've set up your relaxing area in your bedroom or couch most likely, pull out the smallest dilator and follow these instructions.
Wash Your Hands and Dilators
Any dilator item you use for penetration should be cleaned before use with a non fragrant soap (such as Vanicream bar soap) and let them air dry.
After this wash your hands with warm soapy water and ensure you dry them off entirely. You don't want soap going into your vagina because it can lead to further irritation.
Before laying down and inserting the dilator use some water-based lubricant to lubricate the insert. By using a lubricant, you can make the insertion smoother than if the insert were dry which can also cause irritation.
Water-based lubricant is the best choice because it doesn't leave behind a sticky residue and when you're finished it will easily wash away when you're in the shower or wiping yourself off. Not to mention lubricants that aren't water-based can contain chemicals that upset your natural ph and promote the growth of harmful bacteria. Slippery Stuff Lubricants are the best on the market for women with pelvic pain issues.
Inserting the Dilators
Directions Before Using your VuVa™ Vaginal Dilators
- Wash dilators with a mild, fragrance-free soap and warm water. Let the dilators air dry. Vanicream Bar soap is a good option to clean dilators with.
To Get Started
- In a private and comfortable place, lay on your back and put both knees up with your feet on the bed (no wider than your hips) or lay on your side and pull your legs up with a pillow between your knees.
- Lubricate the smallest VuVa™ Vaginal Dilator and vagina canal opening generously with a lubricant your choice. IMPORTANT: Do not use petroleum jelly (e.g., Vaseline). Slippery Stuff is water based and does not cause irritation. Keep all the dilators within reach.
- Finding the right size VuVa™ Vaginal Dilator can be tricky. If you find that you can only tolerate the tip going inside when using the smallest dilator, that’s ok and is not uncommon. However, if that is the case, it may be best that you start with the exercises (See the instructions below). Please do not force the dilator inside.
- Using gentle pressure, insert the smaller round end of the smallest dilator into your vagina. Make sure that the dilator shaft is inserted as deeply as is comfortable for you. Do not insert entire dilator -- leave the larger, round, flat end outside of vaginal opening.
- If there’s no discomfort (you can put the little one inside, squeeze and let go around it on the inside like you’re holding back gas and pee and take it out without any pain or irritation – not even a little bit), you need to use the next size bigger.
- You’re looking for minimal pain when you put the dilator in the vagina (pain level not more than a 1-2/10, with 0/10 being no pain and 10/10 the worst pain ever) —the type that you might just describe as “annoying” or “uncomfortable.” Moderate pain (pain levels 4-6/10) is too much, and severe pain (pain levels 7-10) should be avoided.
- Once you’ve found the proper size, please use your dilator 5-20 minutes twice/day. When you can actively insert and remove the dilator as well as contract and relax around it with no discomfort, move up to the next size.
Relax & Do Your Breathing Exercises
Deep, lateral diaphragmic breathing
We breathe automatically and without thinking about it. You may have been told to breathe deeply to relax or to alleviate pain, but if you don’t practice it, it won’t come naturally. We suggest returning to this prescription between future prescriptions as needed.
- Lie down in comfortable spot where you won’t be disturbed; we suggest your bed. If you’re more comfortable with your knees up and feet on your bed, that works. Or, if you’d like to have support for your knees and hips, you can pull your knees up and then let then drop down and rest on pillows on either side. You’ll be staying on your back throughout the exercises. A pillow under your head is ok for all the exercises except bridging.
- Put your hands on your sides, down low over your ribs. Take a deep breath that pushes your ribs out on both sides. You should feel
- your hands move out as your ribs expand. You might also feel your lower back push down toward whatever surface is beneath you. This may be a familiar to you if you’ve ever been taught how to do diaphragmatic breathing.
- Only your ribs should move; your chest or belly should not move upward. This is not a yoga-style deep belly breath. The goal is to use your ribs and diaphragm to draw air in.
- Now breathe in more and more air, pulling it deep into your lower ribs. You should feel more relaxed as your heart begins to beat more slowly. As you do the breathing, visualize your air going all the way down to the opening of your vagina.
- Once you are comfortable here, breathe in deeply and hold it to the count of five. Then exhale, breathing all the air out. Repeat at least five times.
After you get the process down, use the breathing pattern any time you feel stress or tension anywhere in your body as it can really make a difference.
Vaginal Dilator: Choosing the Right One & How It Works?
A vaginal dilator can be used for a variety of reasons and is beneficial if you're having issues with penetration pain. They come in several varied materials but ensure you lubricate them before inserting them.