This information will teach you how to use a vaginal dilator.
After menopause, the vagina becomes dry, less elastic, narrower, and shorter. Some cancer treatments can also cause these changes within the vagina. To help you with these changes, your healthcare provider has suggested that you use a vaginal dilator and start doing vaginal dilator therapy. Vaginal dilator therapy is a resource you can use throughout your life. It will help to:
- Allow your healthcare provider to perform a more thorough pelvic exam.
- Make it more comfortable for you to be examined.
- Prevent your vagina from becoming too narrow.
- Keep your vagina more elastic.
- Allow you to have vaginal sex with less discomfort.
Select a time and place in which you can have privacy and feel relaxed. Many women find their bedroom to be the most comfortable place for dilator therapy.
Lie down on your back with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle. They should be shoulder width apart. If you find this to be a problem, you can place pillows under your knees for support. Rest your feet comfortably on the bed or couch. Make sure you can easily touch the opening of your vagina. Use a hand mirror if you need it.
Find your pelvic floor muscles and practice Kegel exercises, as instructed in the resource Pelvic Floor Muscle (Kegel) Exercises for Women to Improve Sexual Health.Back to top
Inserting a Vaginal Dilator
Inserting a vaginal dilator is simple and should not cause any discomfort if you do it slowly and gradually. Start with the smallest size dilator in your kit. You can increase the size over time which will help you have more comfortable exams, vaginal sex, or both without discomfort.
- Apply lubricant to the dilator and the opening of your vagina. Use a water-based lubricant such as Astroglide® or K-Y®. Do not use petroleum jelly (Vaseline®).
- Using gentle pressure, slowly insert the round end of the dilator into your vagina. Always insert it at a flat or slightly downward angle.
- Continue to insert the dilator until you feel slight discomfort or muscle tension and then stop. The dilator should feel snug but not painful when you insert it into your vagina. Never use force or cause pain.
- Do a set of Kegel exercises, as instructed in the resource Pelvic Floor (Kegel Exercises) for Women to Improve Sexual Health. These exercises will help you relax your pelvic floor muscles and insert the dilator a little further. If it is still difficult to insert the dilator after doing Kegel exercises, take some deep breaths. Then, refocus on relaxing your pelvic floor muscles and try to insert the dilator a little further. Don’t worry if you can’t insert the dilator completely. Over time, you may be able to get the dilator in a little bit further.
- Leave the dilator in place for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Gently push it back and forth to stretch the length of your vagina.
- Gently rotate the dilator in wide circles to stretch the width of your vagina. Repeat this at the back, middle, and opening of your vagina. Some women find it helpful to work with more than one size dilator.
- Remove the dilator and wash it with hot, soapy water. Dry it with a clean towel. Store it as instructed in the kit.
After You Are Done
You may have a small amount of bleeding when you use the dilator. This is normal. A panty liner will be enough to manage this. If you have a lot of bleeding, such as bleeding that soaks up a sanitary napkin, call your healthcare provider.
If you get urinary tract infections (UTIs) often, you may want to urinate after dilator therapy. If you have any questions or problems, talk with your healthcare provider at your next appointment.Back to top
Goals of Vaginal Dilator Therapy
The goal is to slowly increase the size of your dilators, and if possible, reach the largest size without any discomfort. When you can insert one size of a dilator completely into your vagina without any discomfort, it is time for you to start using the next size up.
You should practice dilator therapy several times per week (i.e., every other day). The more you do it, the more you will benefit. If you don’t have time during the week to practice, you should still try to do a set of Kegel exercises every day.
If you forget to do your dilator therapy or don’t have time one week, don’t give up. Try to start again as soon as possible. Developing a plan or routine for yourself can help you be successful.Back to top
Vaginal moisturizers are products that increase moisture in your vagina. Use vaginal moisturizers regularly to promote vaginal health and comfort. Start using them every other day or 3 times per week. If you still experience vaginal dryness or discomfort, you can use them 4 to 5 times per week.
The best time to use a vaginal moisturizer is right before bedtime. This is because it absorbs best while you are lying flat and sleeping.
For more information about vaginal moisturizers, ask your healthcare provider for the resource Vulvovaginal Health.Back to top
More Support and Information about Sexual Health and Intimacy
If you need more support and information about these issues, please talk with your healthcare provider about Memorial Sloan Kettering’s (MSK) Female Sexual Medicine & Women’s Health Program. For more information or to make an appointment, please call 646-888-5076.
The Female Sexual Medicine & Women’s Health Program provides services at the following locations:
• 160 East 53rd Street: Rockefeller Outpatient Pavilion
• 300 East 66th Street: Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center
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