Dilators can be used to dilate and make penetration easier, but how do you get started? Read our guide here for guidance
What is a dilator?
A dilator is a tool typically used to dilate the vagina or the anus. They're often shaped like a dildo but with a narrower tip, so insertion is easier.
Some people need dilators for penetrative sex, while others will use dilators to be able to use tampons and menstrual cups, or to have a pelvic exam. It may be necessary to use for people with vaginismus, a condition in which the muscles of the pelvic floor involuntarily tighten, making penetration difficult, painful or impossible.
Dilators may also be used in relation to menopause or after cancer treatment, as the vagina may lose its natural moisture production and become more constricted. Here, it can be beneficial to exercise with a dilator set to keep the vagina elastic.
Remember that sex should never hurt, and if you experience pain during sex, it's a good idea to see a doctor or gynaecologist first. There may not be a physical cause for the pain or anything they can do other than recommend dilator therapy, but it's better to hear a doctor say that than just assume.
Read more about pain during sex and what you can do yourself in our guide here.
How do you use a dilator?
When getting started with a dilator set, you start with the smallest size. At Peech, we sell this silicone dilator set where the smallest size is 7.5cm long. Over time you work your way up to the larger sizes, where the largest in this set is 14 cm long.
When unpacking the dilator set, the largest sizes can be quite intimidating and almost scary for some. It can be a good idea to just look at them first or hold them in your hand so you can get a little more comfortable with them. Remember, there is no set timeline for when you should be able to use the largest size - you should only use the kit at the pace that makes sense for you.
How do I get started?
When you start exercising, choose a time and place that feels comfortable for you. You don't want to rush through the workout, so make sure you have at least 30 minutes set aside. Choose a place where you can lie down and relax, like your bedroom.
It might also be nice to dim the lights, light a candle, put on some music or do something else you find cosy to help you relax as much as possible. Before you get started, it's also a good idea to get your pelvic floor as relaxed as possible. You can do this by taking deep breaths. Make sure the dilator is nearby so you don't have to stand up and get all tense.
When you are ready, you can let the dilator rest near the opening of the vagina. When inserting your dilator, it's a good idea to use plenty of lubricant, preferably one that will last for a long time. Many dilators are made of silicone, as it provides the most comfortable surface. In this case, use a water-based lube, as silicone-based lube breaks down the surface of silicone products.
When inserting the dilator, it should create a little pressure, but not so much that it is painful. If it doesn't create a little pressure when you insert it, you can try the next size up. You start by inserting the dilator until it is all the way in or until you feel resistance because the muscles tighten up. If the muscles start to tense, you can do kegel exercises and take deep breaths to relax the pelvic floor again. Remember not to push it in if it hurts! You may not be able to put it all the way in the first time you practice with the set, but that's okay too! The most important thing is that it doesn't hurt.
Once the dilator is fully inserted, gently move it around for 5-10 minutes. Move it in a circular motion, from side to side and up and down. By doing this you loosen the tissue of the vagina. When you can insert and move a dilator size without pain or discomfort, the vagina is dilated enough to move on to the next size.
Remember to clean the dilator after use so it is ready for the next session. Use a toycleaner or a mild soap without perfume.
How often can I use my dilator?
You typically exercise with a dilator 3-4 times a week. You should not exercise 2 days in a row as this can cause irritation and pain. On the days you don't use the dilator set, you can do pelvic floor exercises instead. You can read more about pelvic floor exercises in our guide here.
If you want to learn more about the vulva and the anatomy of the vagina, you can read our guide here.
To learn more about sex during menopause, read our guide here.