Your vagina may shorten and narrow after
surgery or radiation treatments. Your
provider may suggest that you use a non-
vibrating or vibrating dilator to help keep the
vagina open and flexible. Pelvic exams and
intercourse can be more comfortable as a
result. 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 instructed 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
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
1. 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.
2. 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. 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. Do not use
Vaseline or other oil based
lubricants because they may
irritate your tissues.
3. 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 is 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.
4. Once 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
5. Once 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.
6. If you have been instructed to use
a vibrating dilator:
a. After inserting as far as
possible, turn it on. Set it to a
level, low or medium, that
feels comfortable to you.
b. Relax and let the wand
vibrate for 3-5 minutes. If
possible, do this daily. If your
skin is too fragile for daily
use, start with every other
day. Then progress to daily
c. 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
7. Wash your dilator with warm
water after each use. Do not use
soap. This can hurt your tissue.
Store in a clean, dry place.
What Happens If . . .
ξ You have slight bloody drainage or
spotting from the vagina that gets
worse after using the dilator? This is
normal. Do not be alarmed. If you
are concerned, call your health care
team, but keep using the dilator.
ξ You have pain while using the
dilator? This will not harm you.
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.
You may have sex as long as it does not
cause severe pain or heavy bleeding.
Lubrication with a product, such as
Replens or Oasis Silk , may help since
your tissues are likely to be dry and less
If you have any questions or problems, please be sure to call your health care team.
Monday through Friday 8:00am -4:30pm
Radiotherapy Clinic: (608) 263-8500
Gynecology Oncology Clinic: (608) 263-7010
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
If you live out of the area, please call: 1-800-323-8942.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©10/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4609.