Can Vaginal Dilators Be Used to Treat Pelvic Pain and Painful Sex?

Vaginal dilators can help you get back to your sex life after a major surgery, medical condition, or menopause. 

Believe it or not, the vagina can significantly shrink in size, making sex too painful to withstand. That’s where vaginal dilators can help stretch out the vaginal opening and elongate and stretch the vagina.

Here’s what you need to know about why you might need a vaginal dilator and how to use one.

What is a Vaginal Dilator?

A vaginal dilator is a device that allows you to gradually stretch your vaginal opening.

They usually come in sets, so that you can start small and increase the size when you’re ready. The smallest dilators can be the size of a small pinky finger, while the largest can be about six inches long and 1.9 inches wide.

Vaginal dilators are generally made from either silicone or hard plastic. Though the softer silicone models may seem more comfortable, experts advise that hard plastic may be more effective to stretch out your vaginal muscles.

When choosing a dilator, it’s best to talk to your doctor, who can give you advice based on your medical condition. “The type and size of the dilator that is recommended varies based on the underlying vaginal anatomy,” says Anne-Marie Amies Oelschlager, MD, an OB-GYN at Seattle Children’s Hospital

Your doctor may have vaginal dilators available in their clinic, or you can find options online, like SOFTILATE dilators.What are the benefits of a vaginal dilator?

“Vaginal dilators are a very effective therapy for many conditions,” Amies Oelschlager says. In some cases, using a dilator can even prevent the need for surgery.

They may also help improve a person’s sex life. “The dilators can make the vagina wider and longer, this can make sex more comfortable for many people,” Amies Oelschlager says

Some medical conditions that can be treated with a vaginal dilator include:

Vaginal agenesis is a birth defect that occurs when your vagina doesn’t develop fully, leaving you with a very short vaginal cavity. Using a vaginal dilator can help stretch out your vagina so it’s long enough for you to have penetrative sex.

Vaginal stenosis occurs when scar tissue develops in your vagina, causing it to become narrower and shorter. This can be related to prior surgery, cancer treatment, or diseases of your vaginal tissue, Amies Oelschlager says. A vaginal dilator can help break down the scar tissue in your vagina and stretch the walls.

Vaginoplasty is a surgery in which a vagina is created from your genital tissue, usually as a part of gender confirmation surgery. For the first few weeks after your surgery, you will need to use a dilator to maintain the depth and width of your new vaginal canal.

Vaginismus is a condition in which the muscles at the entrance of your vagina tighten painfully during penetration either from a tampon or during sex. Using a vaginal dilator can help retrain and desensitize your muscles and encourage blood flow to your vaginal walls. 

Vulvodynia is a painful condition of the vulva and vagina causing burning, stinging, itching, throbbing, swelling and soreness Using vaginal dilators can help gently stretch the vaginal opening and vagina making it easier to have penetrative sex.

Vaginal atrophy happens when your vaginal walls grow thinner, drier, more fragile, and less elastic. This most often occurs after menopause when your estrogen levels naturally decline. However, your estrogen levels can also drop when:

  • You’re breastfeeding
  • You’re using hormonal birth control
  • Your ovaries are removed
  • You’re getting chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer

Using a vaginal dilator along with pelvic toner can help stretch and stimulate your vaginal muscles to reverse any narrowing.

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