Guide to Dilators - To Ease Painful Sex

Updated: May 7, 2019

Squeezing into a pair of spanx when you've only partially toweled off is nearly impossible.

And intercourse when your vagina isn't fully opening is difficult and painful.

When sex hurts, part of the problem is often that the tissues around your vagina aren't fully opening in response to something being inserted inside, actually, they're likely closing up like a venus fly trap. That's a simple way to put it, but it's not always simple (actually painful sex is never simple).

The reason your tissues respond as they do can be from different factors.

Read 7 Reasons Sex Hurts blog to understand why your privates are acting up.

If the issue is in your tissues, working on your vaginal tissues will help you progress from "I can't enjoy a little finger action" to "a penis is pleasureable" ... if that's what you want.

Dilators are tools of various sizes that you insert in the vagina. The goal is to be able to surrender to the sensation of stretch (or pain, buring, discomfort) that you feel with the dilator and progress in size so that your vagina can enjoy penetration and not fight it during moments of intimacy.

There's many brands of dilators on the market, but my fav is Intimate Rose. They're silky smooth, pleasing colors and made of medical grade silicone, so they're flexible yet firm. Oooh la la.

Above is the full set of dilators from Intimate Rose. They may be purchased as singles or smaller sets.

You want to begin with the smallest size that you can insert vaginally (even partially is a great start).

I advise you set up your space as you would sexy time.

Make the environment feel safe, lights how you like it, candles or scents filling the air that calm you, a locked door, free from distraction and disturbances. Set the mood so your nervous system and body feel safe. This is important because you can't separate your mind and body. The mind controls the body and the body controls the mind, so when using dilators its a mindbody practice.

You've set up the environment, now get some lube.

Lost in the lube world? Here's my Lube 101 Guide.

Next, grab your dilator (the smallest one you can insert), lie down on your bed (or whereever you feel comfortable, safe and relaxed), bend your knees, put your lube of choice on it and yourself and slowly insert it vaginally until you feel like you've hit a wall or there's some mild discomfort. Hold the dilator in place and practice diaphragmatic breaths.

If you don't know how to do a diaphragmatic breath, here's a short explaination: inhale through your nose allowing your lower ribs and belly to expand, then exhale slowly through your mouth feeling your belly and ribs lower and return to neutral. Repeat this slow breathing pattern while using the dilator.

Bring your awareness to the sensation at the vaginal tissues, does the intensity of stretch ease with your breath. Keep your focus on the tissues and ask them to soften and let go. Remember you're safe, and your tissues are safely stretching and opening.

Try to hold the dilator in place for up to 5 min. If you made it to 20 sec, that's where you start your journey. You'll know your progressing if you can keep it in longer with less discomfort.

A static marathon dilator session isn't necessary or functional. Sex usually includes movement of you, your partner and whatever is penetrating the vagina, so you'll want to practice this...eventually. There's various techniques you can do with the dilators, such as moving the dilator in/out, moving your legs, changing positions, pointing the dilator in various directions internally, but don't get fancy yet. First begin with insertion and getting comfortable with that. If you can keep it in for 5 min with no prob, try a larger size or try different positions, moving your legs in/out or moving the dilaor in/out.

I give you permission to explore your boundaries. To conquer painful sex, you need to uncover the uncomfortable and slowly move through it. That means, don't fear a little discomfort in the tissues, keep your mind on the prize, having control over your privates and its pleasure.

If this is hard for you to do alone (as it is for many women), contact a pelvic physical therapist to help you with your tissues. They will coach you along as you proress from one stage to another.

It also means, seeking guiadance from a professional that can help you with the mind piece, such as a sex therapist or psychotherapist that specializes in healing painful sex.

In wellness,

Dr. Ashley