Road and parking lot construction in Madison, Wis. may result in travel delays and route changes to UW Health clinic and hospital locations. Please plan accordingly.Read more
Your vagina may shorten and narrow after surgery or radiation treatments. Your doctor may suggest that you use a non-vibrating or vibrating dilator to help keep the vagina open and flexible. This device can help make pelvic exams and sex easier. If you have any questions about this handout, please ask your health care team.
How Often to Use
Radiotherapy patients: the dilator should be used daily after you are done with your radiation treatments, or as advised by your health care team. Use it for at least two years after your treatments are done. If you are not having sex, you may need to use it once or twice a week for many years. This will help to keep the vagina open and flexible. Your health care team will tell you when you no longer need the dilator.
Surgery patients: if you have had pelvic surgery, wait to begin using the dilator until the wounds are healed (about 6-8 weeks). Use it for the length of time prescribed by your health care team.
How to Insert
Below are the steps for you to follow. Your health care team can help you with the placement until you feel you are able to do it by yourself.
Lie on your back with your knees up and apart as you would for a pelvic exam. If you are not able to place the dilator or massage wand this way, try to stand with one foot on a low stool or the side of a bathtub.
Use a water-soluble lubricant, like K-Y Jelly or Oasis Silk. This will make it easier to insert. Apply to the large end of the non-vibrating dilator or to the tapered end of the vibrating dilator. Do not use Vaseline or other oil-based lubricants because they may irritate your tissues.
Once you are comfortable using your dilator, you may choose to use it while bathing. If you use a vibrating dilator, please make sure that it is waterproof before using in bath or shower. The water during your bath or shower may be enough lubrication.
Gently press the large end of the dilator into the vagina. Point it toward the small of your back. Insert it as far as you can without causing pain. Do not use force. The dilator should slide gently into vagina if it has the right amount of lubricant and is inserted the right way. If it is hard to insert, try to relax your belly and pelvic muscles using slow deep breaths. This should not cause pain if done on a routine basis. If you are still unable to insert it, ask your health care team for help.
When in place, keep firm hand pressure on the dilator and leave in place for 1-2 minutes. You can use a prayer, poem or song phrase to help you keep time. After 1-2 minutes, gently remove it.
When you are comfortable using the dilator, push it gently in all directions inside the vagina (push left, right, up and down) to help stretch the tissue. This same movement should be used when you reach the end of the vagina and when taking the dilator out.
Using a Vibrating Dilator
After inserting as far as you can, turn it on.
Set on a low or medium level or what feels
best. Relax and let the wand vibrate for 3-5
minutes. Do this daily, if you can. If your
skin is too fragile for daily use, start with
every other day. Then progress to daily use.
During the 3-5 minutes, gently press the
wand further into the vagina. If you have
scar tissue, target that area. Press firmly, but
gently. You should not have pain with this.
Wash your dilator with warm water after
each use. Do not use soap. This can hurt
your tissue. Store in a clean, dry place.
You may have sex if it does not cause severe
pain or heavy bleeding. A lubricant, such as
Replens or Oasis Silk, may help since
your tissues are likely to be dry and less
When to Call
It is normal to have slight bloody drainage
or spotting from the vagina that gets worse
after using the dilator. Do not be alarmed.
Call your health care team with your
concerns but keep using the dilator.
Call if you have pain while using the dilator.
You should talk to your health care team.
You may need a smaller dilator or more
guidance on how to use it. Sometimes, the
doctor may ask that you stop using it.
Who to Call
If you have any questions or problems,
please be sure to call your health care team,
Monday through Friday 8:00 am -4:30 pm.
Gynecology Oncology Clinic:
After hours, the phone will be answered by
the paging operator. Ask for the doctor on
call for the clinic. Leave your name and
phone number with the area code. The
doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call: