Sexual Health Q&A

What are vaginal dilators?

Vaginal dilators are tube-shaped devices designed to stretch the vagina. Often made of plastic, dilators come in various sizes. A small dilator might be the size of a tampon. A large one might be the size of an average penis.

Dilators are used for a variety of conditions. For example, radiation treatment for gynecological cancer damage the vaginal lining and make the vagina narrower and less flexible. For some women, dilation can minimize these effects and help the vagina heal.

Women with vaginismus might also use dilators. Vaginismus is a condition in which the muscles of the vagina spasm at the start of penetration, making penetration difficult or impossible. A woman with vaginismus cannot control these spasms. Dilation therapy can help women relax the vagina and grow accustomed to the feeling of penetration.

Young women with vaginal agenesis, who have been born without a fully-developed vagina, may use dilators to create a “neovagina.” In other words, dilation therapy can help them create a vagina on their own.

Dilators may be obtained by prescription or purchased over-the-counter. A medical professional can teach women how to use them and tailor therapy to their personal situation.