The MiddlesexMD team and I spend some time at medical conferences, so I know that vaginal dilators aren’t a mystery just to a lot of women: They’re also a mystery to some medical professionals! Dilators are one of the biggest sources of curiosity when we show our products at those conferences (the other, in case you’re curious, is Kegel tools).
Less estrogen means less elasticity in our tissues. Tissues that were actually pleated—imagine how a pleated skirt can expand and swirl!—become flatter and therefore less stretchy—think pencil skirt. Moisture helps, but so does some regular and gentle stretching, which reminds those tissues of what it is we’d like them to do—both in width and depth.
That’s where vaginal dilators can help. Dilators are typically offered in a set with graduated diameters, starting at about a half-inch and increasing to an inch and a half or so. If you’re looking to recover what we doctors call “patency,” or openness, you’ll start with the smallest dilator that’s comfortable and work your way up. If you’re maintaining patency, you may be using less of the size range.
At MiddlesexMD we offer a variety of dilators, so you can choose the set that works best for you. All of them meet our criteria for safety (safe materials and quality manufacture) and effectiveness (size increments and firmness for insertion). I’m happy recommending any of them, which actually gives me pause in calling out what’s good about each—feels almost like naming a favorite child! The Amielle set, which comes in a pouch, is our lowest-price option, so if cost is a barrier for you, grab that one and go! And our newest option are made of silicone, which has some benefits: You can warm them for more comfortable use, plus they just feel more “touchable.” Their colors are cheerful and friendly, too, which doesn’t hurt!
These descriptions suggest some criteria for you to use in making a choice. If you’re working with your doctor or physical therapist to treat a specific condition, she or he may have additional advice about which might work best for you, as well as how you adapt their use for your situation. Don’t be shy about asking!
I had a woman in my practice just the other day who told a typical—but, for her, life-affirming—story: She’s been single and, when she found a new guy to be serious about, she also found herself unable to have intercourse. Now, after three months of dilator use, she’s having sex comfortably. Such a simple tool, you’ll think when you’ve seen or tried them. But, trust me, so effective.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.