Dilators can come in a variety of sizes and shapes. There is even diversity in the types of materials used to dilate. Many patients prefer silicone dilators because they feel safer and less threatening than plastic dilators. While there are anatomically correct dilators that resemble the basic width and length of a male penis, tapered dilators are an excellent option for patients who are new to dilating and who experience a great deal of pelvic pain.
Vaginismus, or pain penetration disorder, refers to a condition in which the outer third of the vagina repeatedly contracts and spasms, which can prevent penetration completely or make penetration exceedingly uncomfortable.
Pelvic floor therapy for painful intercourse often involves dilating; manual stimulation of the vaginal canal. This helps patients feel more confident in their ability to experience penetration, whether that is through intercourse, masturbation, tampon insertion, or during a medical exam.
Pelvic floor therapists will often ask their clients to begin dilating at home every day for an extended period of time, allowing the patient to ease into the activity and develop a routine. For some patients, dilating with one’s fingers may cause more anxiety than dilating with the help of an actual dilator tool. For others, the reverse may be true. Patients must first become acquainted with their bodies and what feels comfortable versus what is a bit more challenging.
Tapered dilators allow patients to start off with minimal penetration before gradually working their way up to bigger sizes and then to anatomically correct dilators or dildos. A popular dilator kit is the CalExotics Inspire kit, which includes silicone dilators that taper at the end for comfortability. Some of the CalExotics Inspire kits also include a small bullet vibrator that can be inserted inside the dilators. The vibrations from the bullet can help relax the muscles of the vaginal canal and also provide patients with a distraction from the dilating exercises themselves. Patients may discover that the vibration makes the process more enjoyable and others may feel more comfortable dilating without a vibrator.
Usually, patients begin dilating with the smallest dilator size in their kit and proceed to the next size up only when they feel ready. The most important part of dilating is to understand one’s boundaries/limits and to respect them. Pushing through discomfort unnecessarily and ignoring the signals sent from the body can actually hinder progress, but gradual steps can make a big difference.
It can be extremely difficult to find time every day to dilate given the busy nature of everyday life. Fortunately, companies have been working to find a way to make dilating more accessible. She-Ology has created wearable dilators that patients can wear so that dilating does not prevent them from meeting their other responsibilities.
These wearable dilators may not be suitable for beginner patients who experience increased anxiety or discomfort during penetration and dilating exercises, but for individuals who are more accustomed to dilating practices, and whose busy lives often interfere with routine dilating, this might be an excellent option.
There are a few questions to consider before a dilating session. For example, is the space I am considering using when I dilate calming for me, or not? What time of day should I dilate so that I can do so in peace? How can I increase feelings of calm during this time?
By answering the 3 sample questions dilating will be easier and less intimidating. Patients should contemplate dilating in a room that is peaceful and free from distractions that might take away from the exercise. Dilating helps train the pelvic floor muscles, but a part of that training involves feeling intentional with the practice itself and allowing the body to be fully aware and in control.
A chaotic environment can trigger the body’s stress response, increasing discomfort or apprehension. In addition to locating a tranquil space, it is important to pick a time of day that works for one’s schedule. Setting up personal appointments with one’s self can increase the likelihood of actually going through with the exercise and committing to them regularly. Intention is powerful. While it is possible to vary the time allotted for dilating, starting with a set time can make it easier for individuals to include dilating as part of their routine.
Patients who are concerned about feeling anxious during their dilating exercises may consider watching a film or TV show while they complete the exercise. Doing so can be a distraction from the discomfort one experiences and simultaneously ensure that patients are dilating for an extended amount of time. A therapist could recommend a client dilates for fifteen minutes every day, while another therapist may recommend thirty minutes every day. The duration of the exercise is not as important as bringing down the body’s stress levels.
Additional time is usually recommended simply to allow the body to adjust to the dilation and begin to experience decreased negative responses associated with penetration. If a patient is interested in watching films or shows as they dilate, it is important to avoid material that may ramp up their fight or flight responses, as these will counteract the purpose of dilating and may actually train the body to be even more uncomfortable, anxious, or intimidated. For this reason, shows and movies that are uplifting, calming, or humorous may be more useful.
Patients who do not enjoy watching television can still unwind and distract themselves. Audiobooks and meditative music are alternative options to consider.
Patients who have partners can choose to include their partners in the dilating activities. This could be a goal to work up towards if a patient does not feel quite ready to include another person in their practice. Partners can begin by first touching the outside of their partner’s vulvas. Doing so may help the patient build trust with their partner.
Once this has been accomplished repeatedly and with minimal anxiety or discomfort, the partner may gently insert the dilator or even their finger inside their partner’s vagina. With time, the partner may consider inserting two fingers instead of one, but these activities should only be done with the patients’ free and full consent. At any time, the patient may choose to withdraw their consent and continue working alone.
Dilating can be an intimidating process, but with the right approach and self-knowledge, patients can explore what techniques work for them and what techniques don’t. No matter what dilators or dildos a patient decide to use, or how long they dilate per week, perhaps the most important aspect of the practice is to exercise self-acceptance as well as patience.
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