“You Want Me To Put What Where?”

In my experience, vaginal dilators can really freak people out.

The idea of an inanimate object designed to be inserted into the vagina to help with difficulty with sex (e.g. vaginismus) can be very confronting. This is understandable! I’d like to go through some of the reasons people find the idea of vaginal dilators unappealing, and how we can work around these feelings.

But first, what are vaginal dilators?

Vaginal dilators, as you may know, are a nifty invention for conditions such as vaginismus. (They can also be used for other conditions, but we will focus on vaginismus for now). Vaginal dilators are a little family of plastic, glass or silicone tubes in different sizes, which help you get used to the feeling of something going into (and being in) the vagina. They often fit inside each other like a rather charming set of Russian nesting dolls (Babushka dolls).

But that’s as far as the comparison goes with something friendly and adorable like a doll. Most of my patients with vaginismus find dilators rather clinical and “medical”. When they arrive in the mail, they take one look at them and push them back in the packet. They often bring them in to me in the original bag, still fully wrapped in the bubble wrap. They just can’t face them.

At the very least, women feel apprehensive about using dilators.

At worst, they may be physically repulsed by them. This is understandable – but can actually form a big part of the problem. Getting to the point where it doesn’t feel off-putting to use dilators is a major milestone and, I find, usually means the finish line is in sight. While there may be that bit of work to do yet, it’s a fairly predictable path to the end goal of successful intercourse at this point.

But the negative feelings about using dilators represent an age-old challenge to our nervous system, and a major activator of the stress response : threat.

Any negative emotion is a threat to your sense of well-being, your sense that “all is right in your world”. Threat is a major activator of the stress system. Activation of the stress system sets off a protective reaction in your muscles, promoting vaginismus…and thus the vicious cycle continues.

So addressing and working through this sense of threat is essential in overcoming vaginismus, and learning to be okay with your dilators is one of your major tasks.

You can start working through a self-help program to resolve this “threat situation” by downloading my e-book Outsmart Your Pain. You can start that straight away here.

If this is your experience, you will be most interested to follow up with Part 2 of this post.

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