Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Dilators - a guide

I'm going to set this as a page (listed on the right-hand page) but I also thought I'd put it in here as a blog post. Dilators are really important, and also seem to be enigmatic and mysterious little buggers, so here's my guide to them. I hope it helps.


Once you've done enough research into vaginismus, sooner or later you'll come across vaginal dilators. Oh, behave you! Fine - you'll DISCOVER vaginial dilators. I am personally a hands-on sort of a person, and was far more taken with the idea of the dilators than the idea of months and months of therapy, and, you know, talking about FEELINGS and shit. It turns out they go hand in hand, but I want to just focus on the dilators here, as I found it so difficult to really find anything out about them before starting the treatment process.

Trying to find out exactly what I needed to get was confusing enough, and trying to track down dilators to buy for myself turned out to be almost impossible. Once I'd started therapy this was all taken care of, but I didn't know that when I was originally researching my condition. To that end, here is my 100% unofficial guide to dilators (from a vaginismus sufferer) which I wish someone had given me at the start of the journey.

The Hardware

Your GP can prescribe dilators. In my case, in the course of my treatment my doctor referred me to a gynaecologist, who referred me to a therapist, who wrote a letter which I took to my GP, who in turn wrote me a prescription. I then took the prescription to 3 - that's 3 - chemists, before finding one who told me that they could get them for me. The first two chemists really seemed to have no idea what the things were. As with everything about vaginismus, it was not a simple process, but one well worth sticking with - I've said it before and I'll say it again (usually swaying in my chair angrily after a couple of glasses of pinot) - you have to stick to your guns if you want to fight this bastard! 

The most commonly prescribed brand in the UK is Amielle comfort, which is the one I have, (full kit pictured above). The kit consists of a bag, 5 dilators which increase in size from one the size of about a tampon, to one which I have affectionately named the Hubble Telescope. There is also a handle, which the different dilators screw onto, and help with insertion, an instruction booklet, an instructional DVD (which personally I haven't watched as the booklet was really comprehensive) and a tub of kiwi based lube. (I know, kiwi! Exotic!)

Using the dilators is theoretically simple enough. You start using whichever you feel comfortable with, and work up from there - personally, I didn't need the smallest as I can use tampons, but this size would be really useful for someone who struggles to insert a finger or a tampon. Don't be a have a go hero here, choose one which is really and truly fine.

The key to using these, my therapist told me, is to insert them in such a way that doesn't cause you pain. This is really important, as you are training your muscles to stop clenching up when penetration is attempted, and undergoing pain-free penetration will not only help you realise that penetration doesn't have to - and shouldn't, -hurt, but will help your muscles realise this too. Gradually, you work your way up through the sizes until you reach the Hubble Telescope. 

Here's a picture of the dilators, in context of some other objects, a tampon at one end of the scale and a rampant rabbit at the other (other vibrators are available)

The rabbit looks a bit out of it's depth, I'm sure you'll agree.

Finding the bloody things

From my online hunting, the cheapest I could find this particular brand of dilators for (if you wanted to buy one without going through the NHS) is around £45, and you still need a prescription to buy them. There are a couple of online shops that you can buy them from without a prescription, but they have to be shipped from America. The treatment of vaginismus often needs to start from a psychological standpoint, so I can understand the need to have the dilators prescribed, and perhaps there are very good medical reasons for it too. If you think they are something that you would find useful, I highly recommend you ask your GP directly about having some prescribed.

I know vaginismus is something that a lot of women feel too ashamed and embarrassed to talk about. I know that a lot of women who are not as shameless and bloody-minded as me would have given up after being turned away from the first pharmacy, let alone the second, which were both well known pharmacies in the centre of London. It is yet more proof that vaginismus is something which we need to be talking about more. If we compare the lack of awareness - having to go to 3 different pharmacies, struggling to find a purchasable brand on the internet - to the prevalence of solutions for men with erectile dysfunction (I'm not comparing the actual issues here, just drawing a male-female comparison) you see a massive disparity in what is out there. Viagra for instance is a household name, and we see advertising for erectile dysfunction cures everywhere, you see it on tube posters for goodness sake! Again, these are two very different issues, but should public awareness be dealt with so very differently? Why is vaginismus so little spoken about; why shouldn't people be aware of vaginal dilators, which after all are so helpful to so many women? I have no real answers, but I do know that things really need to change.

Do's and Don't's when using Dilators - tips from an old hand

Do - Take your time to insert. An inch, a millimetre - it is all progress.

Don't - Feel you need to rush.

Do - Read a lovely book once you have inserted a dilator. You want to leave them in for a little while, perhaps 10-15 minutes at a time, so I would recommend reading something that will help you relax during this time. I would recommend the chronicles of Narnia (not the scene where Aslan is brutally murdered though) or something by Jane Austen.

Don't - Spend the time watching a character being violently beheaded on a TV programme like the Tudors. I believe this may be known as negative reinforcement. It doubly hurts when you've already got the thing inside you and your muscles start to spasm, take it from me. 

Do - Breathe deeply and allow all your muscles to relax. Relaxation is - and I can't stress this enough - ABSOLUTELY VITAL.

Don't - Carry on if it starts hurting. As soon as it hurts, it's time to stop. Breathe out and remove the dilator slowly. 

Do - Buy some cleaning wipes to keep them ship-shape and shiny, I would recommend something like Ann Summers "buzz fresh" vibrator wipes

Don't - Feel guilty if you don't use them for a couple of days, and then try and overcompensate as a result. Go at a natural and steady rhythm. Overcompensation will not work, believe me and besides, the hubble aint going anywhere.

Do - Feel proud of yourself when you progress up to a bigger size. Believe me, even though you don't think you will, you really and honestly will.


  1. Primary Vaginismus.
    If you have it, then your body is NOT designed for sex.

    It is God's way of telling a woman that she is DESTINED to become a nun or celibate.
    So if you have it, go on and BECOME A NUN.
    Or be CELIBATE.
    That's because it is God's way of controlling the global population. God created women with such sexual dysfunction to keep them away from sex and thus preventing conception. Unfortunately, most women don't realize it and would still go through days and weeks of therapy which is just time consuming.

    Trying to remedy your condition is against God's will.
    God does NOT want you to have sex.
    If you're a woman, don't get married & don't have sex if your VAGINA wont let you.
    God had CLOSED the gates of your virginity.
    FACE IT! You have a NUN'S VAGINA.
    It is time to give up on men and become a NUN.

    VAGINISMUS may be the answer to overpopulation.
    God truly works in strange ways.

    Vaginismus may be the strongest evidence that God exist. Some higher power can manipulate a woman's body for population control. I am now an enlightened man.

  2. Dear Maypaki,

    I wasn't going to reply, because as a general rule I don't think one should indulge trolls, they make a mess of otherwise very nice bridges and have a habit of molesting poor little goats. On this occasion however, I'm going to take the bait as far as to say two things.

    1) I have a first degree in theology. Therefore it behoves me to tell you, with confidence, superiority and authority that everything you have said is - and listen carefully, because this is the technical, theological term for it - utter bullshit.

    2)Do fuck the fuck off.


    The Nun's Vagina

    1. I'm not religious but I do seem to recall a fairly famous story in which the aforementioned God was supposed to have engineered at least one fairly significant conception without sex. I do love nutters, though: they're so entertaining.

      Nicely handled.

    2. Thanks Julian, where would we be without a little variety ey?!