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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.