Everything you need to know about vaginal dilators for vaginismus
Dr. Anuja Chandrana (she/her)

Dr. Anuja Chandrana (she/her)

Apr 08Vaginismus

Everything you need to know about vaginal dilators for vaginismus

What are vaginal dilators?

Vaginal dilators are a cylindrical shaped medical device, made to mimic something that may be inserted into the vagina such as a penis or vagina. Dilators can be plastic, silicone, or glass. Some might describe vaginal dilators as a foam roller for the vaginal canal, stretching muscles to release tension, and restore the width and depth of the vaginal canal. The aim of the vaginal dilator is to maintain flexibility of the vaginal opening and canal. Vaginal dilators can also help the muscles coordinate better, learning how to relax when something is inserted into the canal. Vaginal dilators are essential in desensitising the pelvic floor muscles in order to make penetrative intercourse less painful. 


 How might you benefit from using vaginal dilators? 

The main aim of using vaginal dilators is to address pain with penetrative sexual intercourse, which can occur through various stages in life. 

For people who might be experiencing vaginismus or vulvodynia, the dilators help to  decrease sensitivity both around the vulva and in the vagina. They also release tension in the muscles that come from a guarding response that occurs when there is fear of penetration or history of painful intercourse. Dilators help to decrease the fear associated with penetration.  

Endometriosis is a condition where tissues that grow inside the uterus start growing outside the uterus. One of the symptoms associated with endometriosis is pain with urination and sexual intercourse. This pain can cause the muscles and tissues around the uterus and vagina to become very sensitive and tight. Vaginal dilators help to decrease the sensitivity and pain response, subsequently relaxing the muscles so intercourse and urination is no longer painful. They can also help address symptoms of constipation. 

Childbirth and radiation or chemotherapy are extremely traumatic experiences for the vaginal canal and abdomen. Scarring at the vaginal canal or the abdomen (due to a c-section) can contribute to women experiencing pain with intercourse. Vaginal dilators can help stretch the scar tissue, keeping the tissues more flexible. They’re also used to help decrease the sensitivity to pain, making inserting a tampon, gynac exams, and sexual intercourse easier. 

Vaginal dilators are utilised frequently after gender affirming surgery when the muscles and tissues need help keeping the vaginal opening flexible and open.  

Hormonal changes such as decreased estrogen during perimenopause and menopause cause dryness and decreased elasticity in tissues around the vagina, which can lead to pain with intercourse. Dilators with the use of lubricant can be very helpful in maintaining flexibility as well as help apply topical estrogen if warranted. 


How to choose the correct vaginal dilator

The first step in choosing the correct vaginal dilator is to speak to a pelvic floor physiotherapist. They’ll provide you with options, as well as discuss how appropriate it is to start using dilators. When choosing vaginal dilators, it’s important to keep in mind the variety of sizes a kit offers (the more the better), the price point, if you’re able to keep it inserted without using your hands, and the texture that suits your body best. Read on to learn more about silicone and plastic vaginal dilators. 

Silicone Vaginal Dilators vs Plastic Vaginal Dilators

Silicone dilators are generally described as safer for the body, because some types of plastic dilators can be made with BPA, which can be harmful to the body if used at high levels. They also have a more natural feel, firm with some flexibility - similar to that of a penis. They can often feel less intimidating to a person. Another benefit of silicone dilators is that they have the ability to change temperatures, whether chilling in the fridge or heating it with warm water. 

Click here to order a set of silicone dilators made specifically for Proactive for Her. 


How to use a vaginal dilator?

After purchasing dilators, speaking to a pelvic health physiotherapist is essential.  Using vaginal dilators is not as simple as just inserting them. It’s very important to incorporate breathing techniques, body movement, and pain management strategies, so the correct signals are being sent to the brain. Prior to using dilators, a pelvic health physiotherapist can help assess how the pelvic floor muscles are functioning, create specifically tailored exercises, and provide 1:1 guidance to help progress faster. 


Here are some tips to get started: 

  • Create an environment that feels safe. 
  • Make sure to wash the dilators with soap and water both before and after use
  • Start with inserting your own finger to get a sense of how the vaginal canal feels
  • Go slow and don’t try to push past pain or the “block” you might feel. 
  • Stay consistent. Dilating everyday even for 5 minutes helps to progress

Click here to make an appointment with one of our expert pelvic health physiotherapists at Proactive for Her. 

Benefits of using vaginal dilators

There are many benefits of using vaginal dilators, the primary one being that they help to decrease pain with intercourse. Dilators help to decrease muscle spasms, teach women how to control their pelvic floor muscles, as well as actively relax them. They’re also great tools to help warm up the vagina before sexual intercourse. Dilators are great at gently stretching the vaginal canal, allowing the person who’s using them full control. 


Importance of keeping in touch with your doctor

While using your dilators, it’s important to keep in touch with a pelvic health physiotherapist. They’ll be able to track progress, provide information on how long to keep it in for, and reassure any fears or apprehension associated with it. Pelvic health physiotherapists also help to set a routine and tell you when you’re ready to progress to the next size. From there, you will need to follow your doctor or physiotherapist’s instructions closely. They will tell you how long you should leave your dilator in for at a time, and how often you should train with it inside you. Make sure to speak to your gynecologist if you notice any signs of infection. 



Using vaginal dilators can feel intimidating, however they’re extremely helpful in addressing pain around the vagina and with sexual intercourse. It’s important to use the guidance of your pelvic health physiotherapist during your dilation journey. Here at Proactive for Her, you can purchase both body-safe silicone dilators, as well as work with one of our expert pelvic health physiotherapists to make your dilation journey much smoother and enjoyable!