What Are Vaginal Dilators and Do They Really Work?

A vaginal dilator is a medical device that is designed to help in the treatment of numerous medical conditions and pelvic pain disorders in women by helping to train both the body and the brain to tolerate pain free penetration.

You can use them in various ways to achieve this goal and improve overall sexual health. Combined, with dilation therapy, a vaginal dilator is a safe and effective form of treatment for many issues including:

⦁    Pain During Sexual Intercourse
⦁    Vaginismus
⦁    Vaginal Stenosis
⦁    Vulvodynia
⦁    Vaginitis
⦁    Changes with Menopause
⦁    Chronic Pelvic Floor Pain
⦁    Gender Affirming Surgical Procedures 

Using vaginal dilators and therapy is also commonly recommended after certain types of cancer treatments such as radiation therapy and surgery such as after a hysterectomy.

Getting Started With Therapy

For women with vaginal scar tissue, adhesions, post cancer vaginal stenosis, a condition like vaginal atrophy, and agenesis, vaginal dilator therapy can help to provide a gentle stretch that over time leads to improvement in elongation and width and of the vagina's canal, as well as improvements in mobility and elasticity of the vaginal tissue. 

For people with pain involving muscular overuse or spasms, including vaginismus, levator ani syndrome, vestibulodynia, and dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse), dilator physical therapy can be used to help train the brain and the pelvic floor muscles to have better coordination to expand and relax during sexual activity which can improve patients sexual health and sex life.

This works by providing a gentle stretch in combination with breathing and pelvic floor relaxation techniques to help train the muscles and recover mobility in the vaginal tissue gently and progressively with the larger sizes of dilators. The process is sometimes referred to as vaginal dilation.

Common Conditions

Other common women's health conditions that benefit from the using proper dilator training protocol include vulvodynia, menopause, atrophy, vaginismus, muscle spasms around the opening of the vagina and gender affirming procedures.

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Finding The Correct Size

When it comes to finding the right sizes to begin training with a vaginal dilator, consult your physical therapist first and most importantly, listen to your body. However, as a guide, when you can comfortably use a vaginal dilator in multiple positions and with movement, you are ready to move on to the next size. Position changes with the trainer in allow for variation in pelvic floor muscle, pelvic organ, and vaginal canal position.

Hygiene and How to Insert: An 8 Step Guide

  1. Wash the vaginal dilator with warm water and soap.

  2. Designate a place in your home that is safe and comfortable for your vaginal dilator practice preferably a place that is quiet and calming.

  3. Use a generous amount of lubricant that is water based on the medical dilator and the canal opening. The use of a water based lubricant is important to preserve the medical grade silicone.

  4. Select a size that looks appropriate for your condition or that a health care provider has suggested.

  5. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet planted. Some people may prefer to lie on their side instead; if that is the case, be sure to have your knees bent and the top leg supported by a folded pillow between your knees.

  6. Begin your training by breathing in and allowing your belly to expand, followed by exhaling and allowing your belly to slowly fall. The act of slowly exhaling can naturally open the vagina. Repeat the deep breathing pattern and continue to do so steadily and deliberately. Gently bring the trainer to the vaginal opening and carefully insert it on an exhale.

  7. Keep the vaginal dilator inserted in the vagina and repeat the slow, deep breathing cycle for 15 minutes or the length of time recommended by your health care provider.

  8. If you experience discomfort, visual imagery is helpful for relaxing the pelvic floor muscles around the opening of the vagina. There are several images that can work. Pick the one that is best for you: "imagine that the vagina is like a rose, blooming outward and opening," "imagine that the vagina is like an umbrella, opening and expanding,"

By practicing using vaginal dilators in different positions such as laying on your back, hands and knees, deep squat, and lying on your side, your organs shift around the canal and the device and allow for gentle mobilization of the tissue.

You can also compress the dilator gently into the walls of the vagina. To do this, imagine that the opening of the vagina is a clock, and gently move the dilator in a slow circular method pausing at each “hour” of the clock to gently press the dilator into the wall of the vagina.

Your health care provider may have a unique training plan for you outside of the recommendations made here. Always contact a professional before starting a new vaginal dilator training plan.

Training and Proper Breathing Techniques

A training plan should be set by a professional and consist of using a dilator for 15 to 20 minutes daily. During that time, it is important to breath calmly.

Maintaining a steady breathing pattern by inhaling through the nose and out through mouth helps to relax the pelvic floor muscles to allow for optimal results. This breathing pattern aids in reducing discomfort during a vaginal training session.

During the vaginal training session, it is important to keep actual physical pain to a minimum. If use of a vaginal dilator becomes painful, consider taking a break for two minutes and trying again, or going down a dilator size until your body is ready to progress to the next size.

Types of Vaginal Trainers

There are a number of different types of vaginal dilators available to purchase including magnetic, plastic, and silicone. We recommend that you use a silicone vaginal dilator set based on comfort levels and because sets allow you to progress through a larger range of sizes.

For more information, please visit our additional materials below or feel free to browse our award winning product collection of dilators as well as large, medium and small sets.

Additional Materials

Frequently Asked Questions

Medically Reviewed & Updated: August 3, 2020