Painful penetration is never normal. We want you to have all the sex you want, but we never want you to have painful sex.
Vaginal dilators are a wonderful tool to help desensitize your nervous system and vaginal tissues. Dilators come in a range of sizes, and we recommend starting with the smallest option and working your way up slowly. Your goal should be to work your way up to the size of your partners penis or desired size of penetration.
There is a significant mental aspect to hypersensitivity and it’s important to recognize the mental work that goes into desensitizing these tissues. Remember your brain is doing a great job of protecting you, but it’s just doing too good of a job! If you’d like to learn more about pain and how the brain incorporates past experiences to change our perception of pain, this is our favorite video of all time (only 15 mins!) and our patients LOVE this video too: https://youtu.be/gwd-wLdIHjs
Our favorite dilators are the Intimate Rose brand. They are made and designed by a pelvic floor PT and they are made from an extra soft silicone with fun colors! If you use this link to order, you should receive $5 off your order 🙂 https://www.intimaterose.com/rachel76
Prior to Use:
- Wash the dilator with soap (dye and fragrance-free) and water before and after each use.
- Use a water-based lube like Slippery Stuff
- Avoid using Vaseline®, coconut oil, or other oil-based lubricants. They are not water-soluble and can be irritating to the tissues in the vagina.
- Do not use silicon-based lubricants with a silicon vaginal dilator. Using a silicon-based lubricant with a silicon device can contribute to break down of the material
- Try to approach using vaginal dilators from a place of curiosity instead of judgment – what can my body do today, vs. why can’t it do this, or I should be able to do this.
- Try letting go of that idea that it should be different, and try to meet yourself where you are at, without the pressure to change anything
- Helpful mantras:
- “I am safe”
- “I am in control”
- “This sensation is not causing harm.”
- “I am getting better and better and better every day”
- Rather than using the term “pain,” we want you to name the sensation.
- Is it tense, tight, pulling, sharp, burning, aching, dull?
- Those are way better terms that are more mentally approachable!
- If you have a spouse or partner, it’s very important they are fully supportive of you using dilators. It can help you subconsciously relax more if you know your partner not only passively supports your health, but actively supports you.
- Active support from your partner might look like:
- They tell you they’ll do something like cook dinner/do laundry/ do the dishes/ put the kids to bed so you can have time to use your dilators.
- They buy you a physical gift that you can put in your space to let you know they’re there and supporting you in spirit even if they’re not physically there with you.
- Them cheering you on every time you show up for yourself and use your dilators (even if you didn’t get to the size you wanted that day) because they are proud you’re prioritizing your self care.
- Them celebrating you moving up in dilator size by giving you a massage, taking you out on a lunch/dinner date
- Them asking from a place of curiosity and patience about your dilator program and where you are at on a consistent basis.
- Active support from your partner might look like:
Setting Up Your Space
- Try and incorporate all your senses:
- Touch: Pick a space where you can lay comfortably on your back with your knees bent and relaxed open. Wear your coziest t-shirt and socks, prop your legs on pillows, anything that feels like a big exhale.
- Hearing: your space should be free of distracting noises. You can put headphones in with calming music (but try to keep the music choice as voice-free so you are not distracted.) Listening to meditations can also be helpful. Preferences for guided meditations can be so different from person to person so find one you feel relaxed/safe with! We recommend the Insight Timer app. It’s free and has thousands of guided meditations you can choose from.
- Smell: feel free to light your favorite incense or candle, or diffuse a calm scent.
- Sight: your space should also look calm. Do your best to reduce any clutter in your area. Don’t distract yourself with tv or a movie. Stay tuned into your body to help maintain relaxation.
- Taste: if you like, you can have your favorite tea, smoothie, or a calming flavor in your mouth before or after.
- You may want to put a towel underneath your bottom to catch any lubricant.
- Use pillows underneath your knees as they are relaxed open and to support your upper back and head.
- Place your dilators and lubricant on a towel in an easily reachable place before you lay down
Before you use your dilator:
- Take 10-20 deep breaths to quiet your nervous system 360 breathing refresher: https://youtu.be/MoPZeWrbBIU
- You can also perform stretches to help relax your hips and pelvic floor such as child’s pose, cat/cow, or happy baby pose cat/cow refresher: https://youtu.be/_SR8C8Wbr7s
- One thing that can be helpful to do before dilating is taking your hand and holding your palm to your vulva and breathing. Doing this before doing any type of dilator training can be helpful as it lets you take a second and check in, vs jumping right in. Kind of like a warm up to your workout! This helps your skin (and nervous system) become more ready for touch.
Using Your dilator
- Coat the smallest vaginal dilator, or the size you are most comfortable using, with lubricant
- Place the tip of the dilator at the opening to the vagina.
- Take a few deep 360 breaths while you adjust to the sensation of the lubricant and dilator.
- Slowly insert the the rounded end of the trainer into your vaginal opening as far as you are comfortable. Pause and breathe if you experience discomfort, tension, or muscle guarding at any time. Once you feel comfortable gently slide trainer deeper into the vaginal canal as far as it will go without causing pain or discomfort.
- Use dilators for 5-10 minutes every other day or 3 times a week
Progressing with your dilator
- Once you are able to fully insert that size dilator, without discomfort, you’re ready to progress to the next larger size. Gently press the dilator toward the bottom and sides of the vaginal opening to give it a gentle stretch. Pause and breathe at each spot and tension melts away.
- Once fully inserted, turn the dilator clockwise and counterclockwise to produce different sensations
- Slowly move the dilator in and out as you breathe and focus on staying as relaxed as possible You can also try using the dilator in different positions other than laying on your back. Sidelying, hands and knees, deep squatting… get creative!
- To progress to the next size gradually, once one dilator is completely pain-free and comfortable to use, insert that smaller dilator first for 5-10 minutes and then follow with the next largest size dilator for 5-10 minutes. Gradually decrease the length of time using the smaller dilator as you increase the length of time using the larger dilator.
- It’s important to move intuitively and at your own pace and what’s comfortable for you.
Wrapping up your session
- Wash and dry your vaginal dilators after use with a gentle fragrance-free soap
- Be proud of yourself for showing up for yourself today! 😀
Other Considerations for Vaginal dilators
- Do you bring your vaginal dilators into PT?
- Sometimes, bringing your dilators into sessions with your PT and having them talk you through the process while you are in control of the dilator can be helpful. Maybe they can help you find ways to make insertion a bit easier for you, or they can help remind you to breathe. If you aren’t doing this, We definitely recommend talking to your PT about it. Sometimes knowing the physical tools you have can help with the mental aspect.
- Try different types of dilators and see if you like another one more. Some of our patients prefer wands or plastic dilators to silicone, some prefer starting with a vibrating pelvic wand instead of a dilator, look at different options and see what interests you. You can also try different lubricants. And don’t feel as though you need to jump right into inserting anything. The first few times (or minutes of the session) may just be about putting it at the entrance without inserting, and that’s ok! We have also had patients find success with an external vibrator on their pubic bone while they use dilators as this can help distract nerves and increase muscle relaxation.
- Leave the dilator you are currently using and the one you want to progress to somewhere you see it every day, like the bathroom counter or the bedside table. Seeing them every day can make them less intimidating.
- The more you do something, the more routine it becomes, so setting a vaginal dilator schedule and sticking to it can help make it less intimidating.
If you’d like personalized guidance or have any questions, we’re here for you. You’re not alone in this journey, and we’re here to support you every step of the way! 💕