Information about vaginal dilators
Pelvic radiotherapy for gynecological and anorectal (anus and rectum) cancer is known to damage the vagina. It causes the vagina to shrink and can make the sides stick together. It has become established practice in the UK to recommend regular vaginal dilation during and after radiotherapy to try and prevent this.
A vaginal dilator is a plastic tube used by women to help stretch and widen the vagina following surgery or radiotherapy in this area, along with the cervix and pelvis areas.They are also used to help women who have conditions that affect or cause muscle spasms in the vagina.
After surgery many people can be left with scar tissue, which can lead to a narrowing of the vaginal area and can make sexual intercourse and any medical investigations around this area painful. By trying to prevent the formation of scar tissue, it is thought that the vaginal walls can be kept supple.Vaginal dilators are either supplied to women after surgery, or can be purchased at chemists or online. They are normally made out of plastic, and are a smooth rigid cylinder-shape. They are supplied as a set in increasing sizes. Dilation involves placing and rotating a phallus shaped appliance in the vagina approximately three times a week, in the privacy of your own home, for about five minutes at a time to stretch the skin.
There is mixed evidence on the efficacy of vaginal dilators. During a review of studies in 2010, it was concluded that there was no reliable data to show that dilation had any beneficial impact on sexual function or vaginal anatomy although some women who have used them have found them beneficial.
Sources used in writing this article are available on request
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Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 12 November 2014
Next review: 12 November 2017