Sexuality and especially problems with sex are often difficult to navigate. Sometimes people have pain with vaginal penetration. You be wondering about a vaginal dilator or a healthcare provider may have mentioned this. So what are dilators and what are they and who uses them?
This is the first in a series of blogs designed for people that have a vagina that have been advised to use a dilator or are currently working with a vaginal dilator. Dilators can be used for multiple reasons: to keep the vaginal tissues pliable and healthy, to help return the vaginal opening and canal to a size that is functional for the patient’s sexual activity preferences, or after gender reassignment surgery.
Vaginal dilators are a wonderful compliment that I have used in my practice for years as an adjuvant to pelvic floor rehabilitation for sexual function. Vaginal dilators are designed to restore or expand the tissues and musculature of the vaginal opening. They have helped many return to or begin penetrative sexual activity, a common goal for many people. Dilators can help improve comfort during vaginal penetration, and this can translate into an increased quality of sex life for people and their partners. Sexual medicine experts as well as physical therapists and some sex therapists trained in dilator usage are ideal health care providers to work with dilator introduction and progression for their patient’s.
People who suffer from sexual dysfunction conditions benefit from the use of vaginal dilators. I have categorized these conditions into 4 types:
- The first group involves people with conditions that have created anatomical changes within the pelvis. This includes genetic conditions, (Mullerian Agenesis or Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome), a surgery (after hysterectomy, prolapse repair, or gender reassignment surgery), a response to medical treatments (Graft-versus-host disease -GvHD) and cancer patients with sexuality issues after radiation, breast cancer treatments, and surgically induced menopause.
- The second group includes people with medical conditions that can cause painful or restricted vaginal penetration or intercourse. This category includes but is not limited to, Vulvodynia AKA Vestibulodynia, Vulvovaginal atrophy, Vaginal Stenosis, Lichens Sclerosis, Painful Bladder Syndrome AKA Interstitial Cystitis, perineal tears, episiotomy and pelvic pain after childbirth.
- The third group includes people with chronic pelvic pain and/or bladder and bowel symptoms. Often in this case, the dilator is used as one way to stretch the pelvic floor muscles (this may be where a hard plastic dilator may be recommended over silicone).
- A fourth group includes people who have not been able to have a pelvic gynecological exam, wear a tampon during their menses, or be sexually active with vaginal penetration despite desire and multiple attempts. This condition is known as vaginismus.
At The SHOW Center we know that your sexual health matters and often these discussions can be difficult to approach. That is why knowing which dilator to use and having clear directions supports people in their process of healing and recovery. With the support of a sexual medicine expert and other complimentary measures such as physical therapy patients frequently move from being embarrassed, confused and discouraged to confident, inspired and empowered. Many people can reach their goal of pain-free vaginal penetration. Remember it’s a marathon not a race on your path to healing.
To learn even more please check out my colleague Dr. Amanda Olson a pelvic floor PT on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNrLevOf23o&feature=emb_title. She has some amazing resources beyond dilators and I would encourage you to check out her website: https://www.intimaterose.com/
If you are ready to purchase dilators please use this link to save $5 on your order: https://www.IntimateRose.com/HEATHER9