Note: Please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional and this guide should not be considered medical advice of any kind. If you have questions or concerns about using a dilator, please consult a gynecologist.
What is a dilator?
A vaginal dilator is a medical device that is used to stretch the vagina. Dilators usually come in a kit with multiple sizes so you can gradually increase the size of the dilator you’re using. While these are technically medical devices, you can also purchase dilators from sex shops without any kind of prescription.
Who should use a dilator?
Anyone with a vagina can use a dilator, but they are mostly used by:
- People diagnosed with vaginismus, a medical condition that causes the pelvic muscles to spasm or contract when something is inserted into the vagina
- People who experience general pain when inserting a tampon, having sex, or getting a pelvic exam
- Post-op trans women or people who have had reconstructive surgery on their vagina
- People going through menopause, which can change the size and elasticity of the vagina
- People who have had radiation therapy or surgery to lower their chance of cancer
How often should you use a vaginal dilator?
Most doctors recommend using a dilator for 15-20 minutes, twice a day. This can obviously vary from person to person and it’s best to talk to your doctor about what they’d recommend for your specific case.
Dilators can make a difference in as little as 1-3 months, but some people will have to form a habit and use their dilators for over a year for the best results. Increasing the size of the dilator slowly is usually the best approach here, as pushing yourself to use the larger dilators in your kit before you’re ready can be painful.
How big are dilators?
Dilators vary in size depending on the kit you buy and your specific needs. Most kits start at about 0.5” in diameter and only a few inches long, and increase in half-inch increments up to about 1.5”.
1-1.5” is a pretty standard size for smaller dildos so if you’re able to go up to that diameter while dilating, there are more options you can use for toys. Make sure you’re checking the exact measurements of any toys you want to try after you’ve gone through all your dilators.
How do you use a dilator?
When you begin dilating, you’re going to start with the smallest size in your kit. Be sure to use a water-based lubricant generously to avoid unnecessary pain while inserting. Lie in a comfortable position and insert the dilator like you would a tampon, going straight in at a downward angle very slowly. This process should not be painful, although it may be uncomfortable at first. If you don’t feel pressure from the dilator inside the vagina, you may want to try one size up in your kit if it isn’t painful or too uncomfortable. Otherwise, stick with the smallest size you have.
Most dilators are going to have a rounded tip to them, such as Wellness Dilator Kit by Blush. Some have a more tapered tip, such as the Inspire Kit by CalExotics. Some people may benefit from doing Kegel exercises to build pelvic muscle strength, which can be really beneficial for a number of reasons. This, however, isn’t a step that people with vaginismus should take, as their muscles tend to be overdeveloped. Instead, they can focus on pelvic floor drops (CW: cissexism in the video).
Others may benefit from doing kegel exercises (ask your doctor which exercise would help you specifically). Doing a kegel exercise is easy and should be painless. The idea for most kegel exercises is to imagine yourself stopping a stream of urine. You’re going to hold the muscle for a moment, then relax it. (Once you’ve dilated a bit where you can comfortably use them, you can also look into kegel balls if you want to build muscle without having to manually focus on contracting.) Focus on breathing through these exercises and go as slowly as you need. Do this for about 10 minutes.
You can also gently move the dilator with your hand as you lie back. You can go in and out slowly and rotate it to work on vaginal width as well as the length. Don’t rush this process and go slower or stop completely if you feel pain.
After 15-20 minutes of dilating, you’re done. Gently remove the dilator and wash it with antibacterial soap and warm water.
Dilating is a simple process that just requires a lot of patience. While it can seem like a hassle to do twice a day, the results will speak for themselves. People who have never been able to enjoy sex can stretch their vaginal muscles to have comfortable penetrative sex, use sex toys, or even just use tampons without pain. Dilators are really important tools for vaginal health for some people and if you think you might benefit from them, look into available kits through sex shops or talk to your gynecologist about dilating.
This guide was sponsored. All writing and opinions are my own.