A question I'm often asked by vaginismus sufferers is 'do vaginal dilators really work?'
If you have already experienced pain, anxiety or frustration when using dilators, you may well have negative feelings towards them. Perhaps even just looking at the largest one is enough to make your eyes water. Or maybe they've been consigned to the back of your wardrobe to gather dust...
However, dilators can be hugely beneficial. If you are in a relationship, they allow you to take control over penetration exercises independently, without having to consider or worry about your partner. The other advantage is that, if you fear judgement or criticism from your partner, you don’t need to worry that your dilator is becoming impatient or is thinking that your bum looks big.
If you are single, the dilator provides an adequate substitute penis. Dilators will save you the time and effort of having to find four boyfriends with varying sized penises.
I believe that dilators can be very useful tool (no pun intended) in helping women to overcome vaginismus, although there are common misunderstandings in how they actually do that....
How people often THINK dilators work
Many people believe that the benefit gained from the use of dilators is that they stretch the vaginal muscles and walls, making them more pliable.
However, the reality is that your vagina is an organ that is naturally stretchy and flexible. By default, it is already perfectly capable of accommodating every penis size - it is only an unhelpful mindset that sabotages successful penetration. In the same way, our stomach muscles don not need to be stretched in order to contain a large meal. When our body is relaxed, it does the things we want it to do without even trying.
Battling with the dilator when your PC muscles are tense is like trying to drive a car when the handbrake is on: It’s not going to budge.
It takes no effort to relax muscles, only effort to tense them. As such, the implications of the word ‘dilator’ are misleading. To 'dilate' means to 'make or become wider, larger, or more open', which suggests, inaccurately, that the vagina is too small. Dilators DO NOT stretch your vagina!
I can compare the tensing up of the vaginal muscles to a dentist visit I had a few years ago to deal with an exposed nerve. It really wasn't as much fun as it sounds! As I sat in the chair, gripping the arm rest, I was closing my mouth when the dentist got near the offending tooth. I was imagining terrible pain and my body was responding accordingly. Not that I want to compare a visit to the dentist with having sex. The dentist is never fun, whereas sex should be 🙂
Your vagina is doing the same in response to negative or catastrophic thoughts and beliefs you have about penetration ... although you may well be unaware of those thoughts - which is why the vaginal response can seem so involuntary and unconscious.
The advice given for dilator use is to leave the dilator in your vagina to allow the body to get used to it. Again, it's not your body that is getting used to it - it's your mind. As soon as you remove the dilator your vagina goes back to the unstretched size it was before insertion. What actually should have (hopefully) changed is your BELIEF about how accommodating your vagina can be. Which leads me nicely to...
How dilators ACTUALLY work
The use of dilators in overcoming vaginismus can be very helpful - they are a tool to measure success. However, it is important that the use of dilators is accompanied by a relaxed mind to facilitate the process. Without this, you will be trying to force the dilator inside, whilst continuing to think anxiety provoking thoughts. It is likely to be a frustrating, and potentially losing battle.
You cannot overcome vaginismus with the same thinking that is currently creating it if you are generating the same unhelpful thoughts that you are then desperately trying to fire-fight away. It’s like trying to mop the floor whilst the tap is still running: Water is cascading out of the sink onto the floor, and although your efforts and energy may go into trying to mop the floor more effectively, the water still keeps pouring. The answer lays in developing the mindset to prevent these problems from starting in the first place by teaching you how to effectively turn off the taps.
When used effectively, dilators can help you create the belief that your vagina is normal. When the belief is there, you will relax. When your mind is relaxed, your body will follow.
The proof is in the pudding: when you manage your thinking well, success with dilators will follow. This will give you a sense of control and empowerment - ultimately leading to the resolution of vaginismus.
The Cure your Vaginismus and Thrive Programme will give you all the insight and tools you need to permanently overcome vaginismus. When your mind is relaxed and playing ball, you will be able to insert dilators much more easily. Read more about The Thrive Programme for Vaginismus.
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