Vaginal dilator

What is a vaginal dilator?

A vaginal dilator is a plastic or silicone form. It comes in many sizes. It is often about 4 inches long and varies in width.

Why do I need to use it?

When the vagina is healthy, it is stretchy and lubricated so objects can be inserted. A dilator can be used to keep the vagina open.

For patients who have undergone vaginoplasty surgery, vaginal dilation is important to maintain the depth and width of the vaginal canal. This also helps to prevent vaginal stenosis, which is a condition where the vaginal canal becomes narrower and shorter as a result of scar tissue buildup.

The vagina can narrow because of:

  • Age
  • Low estrogen
  • Diseases, such as lichen planus
  • Therapies, such as pelvic radiation

You must keep the vagina open to:

  • Have intercourse
  • Have vaginal exams
  • Insert medicine

It can be hard or impossible to insert anything if the vagina starts to narrow. If this happens or is expected, a dilator can be used to help keep the vagina open.

Dilators can also be used to relax the pelvic floor muscles. It is often used in women who have vulvar or vaginal pain where the pelvic floor muscles have tightened. This is sometimes called vaginismus, pelvic floor spasm, or levator ani spasm.

A specially trained physical therapist may help suggest exercises and stretches that use the vaginal dilator.

How do I use it?

  1. Wash it in hot water using a mild soap. Rinse it well before use.
  2. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and apart. Relax your legs.
  3. Place a small amount of the prescribed medicine or approved lubricant, such as vegetable oil, on the rounded end of the dilator.
  4. Put the rounded end into your vagina with firm, gentle pressure. 
    • Be sure to press the dilator to the point of mild discomfort but not pain.
  5. Leave the dilator in place using gentle pressure for about 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the dilator. Wash it with hot, soapy water, rinse well, and let air dry.

Some women will be taught to do pelvic floor exercises with the dilator in place.

When and how often do I need to use it?

Use it at least 1 to 3 times each week. At times, you may notice a small amount of spotting or blood. This can be normal.

Call your provider's office if:

  • Your bleeding is heavy
  • You are concerned about any vaginal discharge or odor

Other ways of dilating your vagina:

Other tools that can dilate the vagina are a:

  • Vibrator
  • Finger

Where can I get a vaginal dilator?

Your provider’s office may give you a set of dilators. You may want to buy your own set. There are many places to order them. Ask your provider if you need help.

Vaginal dilator suppliers

Your provider’s office may give you a set of dilators. You may want to buy your own set.

There are many places to order these. They are common health care tools. 

Some options are:

Soul Source Therapeutic Devices

Ask the IRL VVD Clinic staff for a paper order form

Products:

  • Single silicone vaginal dilators in 8 sizes
  • 5 vaginal dilator sets
  • Rigid plastic vaginal dilators in 6 sizes
Ergoerotics - Where Comfort Meets Pleasure

Products:

  • Silicone dilator set (5 sizes)
  • Glass dilator set (3 sizes)
  • Vibrating dilator set (4 sizes)
  • Massaging dilator set (3 sizes, in sets of 2)
Vaginismus - Helping Women Overcome Sexual Pain

Products:

  • Vaginal dilator set
Intimate Rose

Products:

  • Single silicone vaginal dilators in 8 sizes
  • 4 vaginal dilator sets
Pure Romance

Products:

  • Sex health
  • Vaginal dilator set

Post-Vaginoplasty Dilator

The importance of dilators post-operatively cannot be stressed enough. It is imperative to purchase a dilator set prior to surgery. We recommend the “Soul Source GRS Vaginal Dilators ” sizes P2, #1, #2, #3 easily found online for a total of $227. Many people choose blue or green dilators as their goal size, but goal size can change as goals change.

Dilation should begin as soon as vaginal packing is removed. There may be some discomfort, stretch, or tenderness but do not push past resistance or into pain.

Post-Vaginoplasty Dilator Program
Time Protocol Notes
Through Post-Operation Visit (10-14 days) 15 minutes | 4 times per day Progress size as tolerated
Until 1 Month Post-Operation 30 minutes | 3 times per day
Until 2 Months Post-Operation
Until 3 Months Post-Operation 30 minutes | 2 times per day If not at goal size and depth, continue at 3 times per day until goal is accomplished
Until 4 Months Post-Operation
Until 5 Months Post-Operation If size and/or depth regresses, return to previous frequency on chart.
Until 6 Months Post-Operation 30 minutes | Once per day
Until 7 Months Post-Operation
Until 8 Months Post-Operation
Until 9 Months Post-Operation 30 minutes | 5 times per week
Until 10 Months Post-Operation 30 minutes | 3 times per week
Until 11 Months Post-Operation 30 minutes | 2 times per week
1 Year+ Post-Operation 30 minutes | Once per week

Dilation Session Difficulty & Progression

Easy–insertion to target depth takes <1 minute with only a little resistance, discomfort

Medium–insertion to target depth takes <5 minutes with some resistance

Difficult–insertion takes longer than 5 minutes and there is pain during or after

Attempt the next size after 3 “easy” sessions in a row. Splitting the session into two sizes for a total of 30 minutes can ease the transition between sizes. Maintain the same numberof dots/depth on all sizes.

Do not push past moderate resistance or into pain. Mild discomfort or stretching is normal.

Tips & Tricks

Position and Set-Up

  • Lie on your back with knees slightly open and supported.
  • Use copious amounts of medical grade, water-based lube such as Surgilube, McKesson, Medline E-Z, etc. After 3 months, you may switch to thinner, water-based lubricants such as Sliquid, Slippery Stuff, Astroglide, etc.
  • A hand mirror can provide guidance.
  • Insert the dilator 45°with the dots facing you. This allows the dilator to move under the pubic bone. Once under, straighten the dilator to a flat angle.

During Dilation

  • Expect a small amount of resistance, tenderness with insertion and stop when you feel moderate resistance and pressure.
  • Check how many dots are on the outside to maintain depth throughout the session.
  • If you are having trouble moving up sizes or feel an area of tightness, it is okay to slightly and gently tilt the dilator for myofascial release.

After Dilation

  • Wash with gentle soap and water.
  • Wipe front to back to avoid infection.
  • It is okay to experience some bleeding after dilation if it slows and stops on its own. If bleeding is excessive, call the clinic.

If you suspect an issue or an infection, contact your physician but continue dilation until further instructed.

Last reviewed: 
March 2022

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