Suggestions for Using Vaginal Dilators

by Wendy Maltz, LCSW, LMFCC, Certified Sex Therapist Author of The Sexual Healing Journey (www.HealthySex.com)

Many women are finding vaginal dilators to be an effective medical aid in helping them overcome sexual problems, such as, vaginal atrophy, painful intercourse, and fear of penetration. These durable plastic, tube-shaped devices come in four progressive sizes: extra-small, small, medium and large. They allow you to slowly stretch the muscles in your vagina and desensitize your emotional and physical reactions. Over time you can build confidence about your ability to enjoy vaginal penetration during lovemaking.

Here are some general suggestions for how to use vaginal dilators in a sexual healing program. Consult with your physician or sex therapist to make sure that these suggestions conform with the individual treatment program recommended for you.

Suggestions for inserting vaginal dilators:

  1. Wash the smallest size dilator with soap and hot water. Then place it in a glass of hot water by your bedside to keep it warm. Take a hot, relaxing bath. Dry off and sit back on your bed, reclining on soft pillows.
  2. Take the warm dilator, dry it off, and cover the tip with a personal lubricant. Place a large dab of lubricant over your vaginal opening.
  3. Relax, breathe fully and steadily. Do a few Kegel exercises to tighten and relax your vaginal opening. When you feel ready, slowly insert the tip of the dilator into the opening of your vagina. Angle the tip downwards, towards your tailbone, as this will help steer the dilator comfortably in, under and around your pubic bone. Insert the dilator only as far as you want to, then rest and continue with relaxation techniques to keep yourself calm and your vaginal muscles loose.
  4. Work towards being able to insert the dilator 3-4 inches inside you and rest it there for about 20 minutes a day, every day. The more regularly and routinely you do the insertion, the easier it will become. Do not try to push the dilator in all the way. It is designed so that part of it will stick out so you can easily hold on to it.
  5. Once you are comfortable with resting the smallest size dilator inside you, experiment with moving it around. Remember, the dilator is helping you slowly stretch the inner muscles of your vagina. Move the dilator up and down, back and forth.
  6. Repeat the exercise with the smallest size dilator for at least one week. When you feel ready, progress to the next size dilator. Stay with one size dilator as long as you need to until you feel relaxed and comfortable with insertion and movement. You master each size before moving on to the next.
  7. Continue the exercises until you have mastered the largest size dilator. Then, you can repeat the exercises guiding your partner’s hand as your partner inserts the dilators and moves them around. Eventually, with your partner’s cooperation, you can continue the exercises using your partner’s penis, or fingers.

Using vaginal dilators takes time and commitment. To protect against boredom, feel free to combine dilator insertion with another relaxing activity, such as, reading a book, watching TV, or listening to music. If you can only find 10 minutes a day to do the exercises, that’s better than nothing. If you skip a day or several days, just start in again as soon as possible. One woman likened the process of treatment with a dilator to using a shoe stretcher to increase the size of tight shoes — with either one, you need to get it in and give it plenty of time to work.

In using vaginal dilators, remember that you can control the process. You determine when, where, how, and for how long you will do an exercise. To facilitate transitions, you may want to shift down to an easier size for a longer period of time, or shift from one size to another slowly during the same 20 minute period. Treatment with vaginal dilators usually takes several months if a woman is using the dilators daily. Follow-up insertion on a less frequent basis may be necessary to keep the vaginal muscles loosened.

Sexual relations:

It is best to avoid sexual activity that involves any type of vaginal penetration during the dilator treatment period. Non-vaginal penetration sexual activities, such as oral sex and manual stimulation, are fine.

The transaction from plastic dilators to a partner’s penis is often an exciting step for a couple. To make the transition, your partner has to learn a passive role, letting you control the insertion and then just resting inside the vagina for a while. In time you can expand this exercise to permit insertion by the male of his own penis, clitoral stimulation, some thrusting, and experimentation with different position.

Vaginal dilators allow you to get used to sensations common in intercourse. Keep in mind that intercourse is not always 100% comfortable. Little temporary tugs and pressures are often just part of getting started. If some minor discomfort exists, try moving ahead anyway — but if obvious pain persists, don’t ignore it , stop. If you encounter unexpected difficulty, you may want to practice with the dilators some more before attempting intercourse again. Continued dilator use may be necessary, from time to time, to keep the vaginal area relaxed and comfortable.

Vaginal dilators can be very successful in helping women overcome penetration problems, but if old symptoms reoccur, don’t hesitate to consult your physician.

61 Responses

  1. Hello I have just started using the vaginal dilators.
    I can insert them with no trouble but they tend to slide out a bit when i leave them for the alloted time.
    Is this normal or am I doing something wrong?

  2. Hello,
    I have a few questions,
    1. Are there any side effects known to using the dialotors?
    2. Can I use them without having spoken to a speicalist, my GP has confirmed that I suffer from Vaginismus but not suggested a treatment as she reffered me to a secpailist. But it will many many months before I get my appointment with a specialist and I wanted to make a start in the meanwhile.

    3. I have heard that the dialotors can cause scarring to the vaginal tissue sometimes, is this true and if so what can be done to prevent it?

    Thanks a lot for the help!

    • I am not a dr. I can only give you advice on what I have experienced. I was given dilators from my gynecologist with absolutely NO direction. It wasn’t until I met with a physical therapist (many years later) that I found a stretching routine that worked. I have explained all that on my blog. I don’t think it would hurt you to try it on your own. You know your own pain threshold. I personally haven’t heard of scarring from dilators. Only side effects I could possibly think of is if they aren’t clean or if you try one that is too big to start out with. Best to you!

  3. Where does one purchase vaginal dilators and how does one decide what to buy?

  4. Is it safe to use them when you’re on your period?

  5. Hi, I am suffering from painful unsuccessful intercourse, where can I buy vaginal dilator?

    • You can ask your gynecologist to see if they have any sets. I was issued a set from my dr. Also try googling it. I’m sure there are sets out there for a good price. Just look for a set with several sizes and that are flexible instead of rigid.

  6. I’ve been using them for about a month (there are 5 sizes) – 3/4 times a week and i’m alright with numbers 1-3 but number 4 is a massive struggle and I don’t even want to think about number 5. Is this really going to be an issue or perseverance because I’m becoming extremely frustrated.

    • Well, I only had two dilators to work with. One was about 1″ the other about 1.5″. Just work with what you are comfortable with and really try to stretch those muscles. Don’t forget that frustration leads to tense muscles. I would take the dilator and really press on those muscles to open them up. And use plenty of lubrication. Yes, it takes time and will really push your tolerance level but if you stick with it you will see progress. Just keep up with the kegels 3x a day and the stretching at least once a day. Best wishes to you!

  7. Hi..thank you SO MUCH for this information. I am dealing with atrophy & recovering from some tearing from intercourse & then swearing off sex because it was so traumatic. I didn’t realize just how much I’d changed, physiologically, & thought sex would be fine. Now I’m going to follow your instructions carefully & commit to improving my vaginal fitness. Do you recommend any particular dilators?

    thanks again,
    madge

    • There is hope for everyone! As far as dilators I don’t have a particular brand to recommend. My gynecologist provided a set for me. It wouldn’t hurt to ask your dr to see if they have any. If you google vaginal dilators you should see some sets out there. I only had two sizes to work with. Most sets have many more sizes. Best wishes to you on your journey!

  8. I have ordered a dilator set off amazon because I have vaginismis. My question is u stated that there is to be no sex during dilator period. So if this takes me 3-4 months, does this mean no actual intercourse for that many months?

    • That is correct. It is important not to involve any trauma. Just concentrate on dilating and once things seem stretched then give it a go. You don’t want to take any steps back!

  9. I found a great set here http://www.amazon.com/Womens-Health-Rehab-Supply-Premium/dp/B009D1LZPG/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1351275703&sr=8-4&keywords=vaginal+dilator on amazon that was affordable and came with a plastic zip pouch and carrying bag. The set has 5 sizes and super high quality.

  10. Is it possible to insert dialators without sexual arousion.

    • Well. That is an interesting question. It all depends on the purpose you are using them for. For most with Vaginismus, insertion is painful and not arousing. For some I guess, the pain may be arousing?! I don’t know. To each their own. But I can say from my experience… totally non-arousing.

  11. Hi,
    My dr said I have vaginismus, I read about the problem and got dilators for myself. After getting the dilators and trying the first two size I read somewhere that it was very painful and they could not make it to the 5th size. I got so scared that I stopped using it. Got some courage last week and started using it again and believe me I am already half way through the 5th size. When I read this blog today my confidence level increased. Thank you sooo much. :) . I got my dilators from amazon. :)

  12. Can you use a dilator if you haven’t had sex before

  13. what if we try intercourse? does it gonna affect dilators activity?

    • Only try intercourse if you feel like you are stretched enough to try it. I had to do a course of stretching right before intercourse to make sure I could handle it. But DO NOT try if you aren’t ready. It is counter-productive!!!!!!!!!

  14. I developed vaginismus from some unrelated medical history which required chemo & steroids etc continuously for 10 yrs…about 3 yrs ago I discovered I could no longer wear a tampon & after lots of Google searching I diagnosed myself with vaginismus. I went to my first gyno, she acted uninvested & gave me a pk of 5 hard plastic dilators & not instructions. I messed around down there clueless & gave up for months. I then met my bf(2 yrs together now) & when things became more serious I humiliatingly had to explain how things were broken down there. After constant inconsistent research and treatment for the past two yrs I feel hopeless. However you are the only page actually giving beneficial detailed instructions! Thank you!

    • You are so very welcome! I had to share the info I received because THERE WAS NOTHING OUT THERE THIS DETAILED!!! Glad it has given you a sense of hope :) Best to you on your journey.

  15. Can a condom be used on the dilator just to ensure a clean surface is getting in touch with the inner walls of vagina.

  16. Hi, I had a hysterectomy 6 months ago and am now much more shallow than I used to be. Do you recommend a regimen to lengthen, or deepen the vaginal canal? I know you’re not a Doctor, but any help is appreciated. I ordered the Berman Set with 4 sizes. I should have it in a few days. Thanks!

    • Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for you on this. I certainly wish I did.

    • Diana, I don’t know if you got any replies to your plight but I had a hysterectomy in 91 and too was left with a shortened vaginal canal. I was offered no help at all at the time and thought that this was the end of any relationship in my life. However I went through a reconstruction recently (20 years later) which improved the situation. I would recommend you speak to your surgeon/gynaecologist and ask them what they can do for you. I wish you well and would be interested to know the outcome. All the best.

  17. vaginal dilators caused me pain and did not work. why do people selling vaginal dilators not tell you this ? is it because they just want you to buy it and then when you own one it is only then you find out about the pain from stretching ? because then it is too late and you cannot send it back and you have wasted your money. is there any alternative out there that does not stretch and cause pain. like i said i am sick to the back teeth of getting a different dilator only to find again vaginal dilators do not work.

    • Using them incorrectly will cause pain. If you truly have vaginismus, the only way to cure it is by stretching the muscles…and that is going to be uncomfortable. However, if there is too much pain involved then it makes the dilators counter-productive. There are some that may not be able to insert even the smallest dilator… that may be you. There are physicians/therapists out there that can help women that are that severe. Sorry you are feeling discouraged :(

  18. dee
    you may want to check this out, it has been done by 5 women of different ages and with different problems. I think you and alot of other ladies may find it worth reading, it is independant,open and honest and yes it does look like another option for you and sadly not many people know of it. I do, because of my profession.I hope you and others read all of it.

    http://vagiwavereviews.moonfruit.com/

  19. Hi, I have just started using vaginal dilators. I did not have any problem with the smallest dilator. I started using the second sized dilator recently. I was able to insert it without any problem except I could feel the tightness inside the vagina. But after the procedure I was feeling odd, as if my vagina was swollen. It went away after some time. But the following day I had lower abdominal pain and a feeling of fullness. Is this normal during the early stages of vaginal dilation?

    • I don’t believe I personally experienced anything like that. Could be a little swollen after working the muscles I suppose. If the problem persists I would recommend talking with your physician. Sorry I’m unable to offer any info on that.

  20. I am post menopausal and went for an exam about a month ago. The doctor said I had atrophy. She did a pap smear, but it was inconclusive because the exam caused bleeding, so they could not get a proper reading. She told me everything looked OK and wanted to give me some estrogen cream, but I would have to go for another pap smear first. I figured when I go back, I’m going to have the same situation, so I have been trying the dilators and Replens. It has helped some, (at least I can now use my Kegal weights, which I could not insert before), but I noticed that trying to insert the fourth largest dilator causes some spotting, doesn’t feel too good, either. Is this normal, and should I just keep trying (only can go about half way with dilator #4). Have not been sexually active in a very long while, so I probably shouldn’t care, and my main goal was just to be able to insert the Kegal weights, so I don’t end up needing adult diapers (haha), but I would still like to be able to have an exam without needing a bullet to bite on. Thanks for any info.

  21. I used a dilator for the first time this week. I received them from a doctor/pharmacist. I forgot to wash it the first time that I used it. It wasn’t in any plastic covering and right after I used it I freaked out because I realized my mistake of not sterilizing it before hand. I drank a ton of water afterwards to flush any bacteria out of my system right after this. I haven’t noticed anything wrong with me and it’s been almost a week. Should I still be concerned still? or am I just a worry wort?

  22. I have been using dilators on and off for years. I am able to insert all sizes but have never been able to get them fully inside me – I can get up to about 4-5 inches or so then they just stop, a bit like they hit a wall. Has anyone else experienced this problem?

  23. Hello Everyone
    I think I have vaginismus. I am very scared of penetration. I have recently got married however this fear is causing a big strain on my marriage. I have ordered myself some dilators but am scared of using them. I feel so down and do not know what to do or who to turn to as I feel people do not fully understand what I have.

    • Zahedan I suffered from the exact same problem! I was married almost a year ago and it was so traumatic. My marriage has been suffering. I am currently under going physical therapy. They help you use dilators and show u exercises to decrease the tightness of your muscles. I hope everything works out for you…

  24. Also the dilators I have ordered are a solid plastic ones so I do not know if they will be ok because I have read here on someone’s post that Flexible dilators would be better. Please could someone help me and point me in the right direction. I really need help and advise and I am very glad That I have come across this site. I hope I not waffling on and I hope I make sense.

  25. Does this work for menopausal women? I have the normal hormonal thinning of my vagina. I was in a long term relationship and the intimacy for many reasons had declined. I had no desire for a long time, my desire returned, but then the sex was so painful, I could not wait for it to be over, and it usually resulted in not only pain, but some bleeding. I am now out of that relationship and want to see if I this would work. I am only 57 and can’t imagine spending the rest of my life with no intimacy, or sexual activity.

  26. Hi, I just started using vaginal dilators. When I started using dilator I start with the smallest dilator ( size 1 ) for 15 minute, and since I did not have a problem I used the second dilator ( size 2 ) for 15 minute and continue size 3 and size 4 , each 15 minute. But When I started used size 5 I starting feeling pain ( even though not all the way in ), Should I try again with size 5 or I should back to size 4 ? cab you give your opinion ? thank you.

    • Hi Danny,

      I am in the same situation as yours.I am comfortable inserting the size 4 dilator but I am unable to insert the dilator of size 5.Its very painful.May I know if you have overcome your problem If yes then how much time it took to be completely comfortable with the largest dilator and how did you manage to get comfortable with it.

      Thanks.

      • Hi Gunz, , everything are work out with me … and I don’t have any problem it’s was pain but I keep tried until I don’t have any pain again and I used Dilator probably a month ..And now I don’t need dilator anymore.

      • well all I can say is my wife used the vagi-wave and had loads of free support and is now very sexually active. we went through the dilator route too but to no avail.

      • I looked up this product. Sounds too good to be true! Would love to try it though. It seriously worked well?!

  27. Due to the herbal medication administered for the past 5 months, intercourse has been very painful and clotted blood coming out each time i have sex. please can vaginal dilator be the best option for treatment though i have see my gyn and he prescribed one.

  28. after scrolling through all the comments i see that they are all from woman who suffer from vaginismis. i do not suffer from this but i am incredibly uncomfortable with penetration. i was hoping to find a comment from another woman who was once afraid of penetration to see if these dilator things would help.

    • Hi rosey, these dilators are there to help you achieve the penetration. The idea behind is you feel relaxed with dilators and once that is achieved you can have penetration without pain. I also fear penetration i went through hymen removal but it was not what problem i was facing. I just fear penetration

    • Yes they work! I committed to doing them every night and i really feel it “retrain” my vagina to not spasm!! When it feels painful, stop-take a deep breath in and breathe out. As you breathe out, slowly but steadily and gently push the dilator in. This trains your vaginal muscles to not freak out and as you feel some pressure , you retrain your muscles so they do nit automatically interpret insertion into your vagina as painful.

    • Rosey, I am a post-menopausal woman who is still a virgin. I bought the dilators when I was considering that I might have sex. I had always been tight, in fact when I was young I couldn’t even use a tampon.

      Anyway it was not for vaginismus. I only did it for a short time and stopped when I found that I would not be having intercourse anyway. Zoom ahead, there was a man who really got me aroused – I think with the hormonal changes as well. SO I started using the dilators again. Honestly it helps to first be very aroused, so masturbating (even with a vibrator (externally)) helps, and then start using the dilators with extra lubrication. It does help.

  29. I have been using these dilators for 2 years when i feel motivated i start it and leave it when face less motivation.
    i have started it again a week earlier but i feel its not working. is it necessary to take the complete dilator inside or just the entrance is important?

  30. Hi

    I’ve recently started using dilators and found that I was able to move on to the biggest size within a day using a lot of lube BUT the burning stretching pain at the first few inches is STILL painful for me. It gets easier past a certain point but initial entry is still a killer. I am not really leaving the dilator in for more than 2-3 minutes. Would that be a possible reason?

    Also I can’t get the dilator in past 4 inches without it hitting a wall. Can it be hitting my cervix? The dilator has at least another 2-3 inches left to go inside and I feel disheartened that i can’t progress to the “finish.” Is it normal to not fit the full 6 inches of the dilator in? It comes with a handle so I’m presuming I am meant to get the whole thing in since I have the handle to pull it out. Or is it impossible for a dilator or any object to go that far without any arousal? So confused. Any advice would be great x

  31. Thank you soo much. Thus really helped and gave me confidence to start my dilators treatment.

  32. I’m facing the same thing with my fiancee at present and I honestly feel that if a woman truly is sensuous and wants intimacy, working together as patiently and as lovingly is the answer—the woman has to have complete trust and confidence in her partner that he’ll be gentle, understanding, patient, and will do exactly what they both agree on his doing—I love my fiancee to the nth degree and if it means I must abstain from actual intercourse, I WILL do that until SHE wants to attempt penetration—meanwhile, foreplay with much kissing, touching, and using various appliances, i.e. dilators, vibrators, other toys will help the process along as it’ll only be a matter or time when total and complete union occurs when both people truly love and care for each other—

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