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How to Navigate
Changes at Midlife
Sexual Problems at Midlife
Causes of Sexual Problems
Reminders & Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
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A number of devices have been developed that can help women in menopause with sexual problems, either alone or in addition to treatments such as sex therapy or topical or systemic medication.
Dildos and vibrators can help you learn about your sexual response and show your partner what you like.
Vibrators and dildos can be helpful to women with arousal or orgasm problems, especially with some guidance from an experienced sex therapist. Vibrators can increase blood flow to the genitals, and both dildos and vibrators can help you learn about your sexual response and show your partner what you like. These devices don’t require a prescription, are not very costly, and can be used with or without a partner. They can also be used to add spice and variety to the sex lives of couples whose main problem is boredom with their sexual routine. The same goes for other sex toys and erotic products.
A clitoral therapy device, known by the brand name Eros-CTD, has been approved by the US and Canadian governments to treat female sexual dysfunction. The device is a small pump-like vacuum that fits over the clitoris and uses suction to draw blood into the clitoris so that it swells. It may be used by a woman alone or with her partner during foreplay and, with use of extension tubing, during intercourse. The device is mainly used by women with arousal disorders, but it requires a prescription in the United States (but not in Canada) and is expensive and typically not covered by insurance.
Vaginal dilators are plastic or rubbery round-tipped cylinders that come in sets ranging in diameter from about 3/4 inch to the width of a fully erect penis. They are used to stretch and relax the vaginal muscles and can be helpful in treating either vaginal stenosis (constriction or tightening) or vaginismus (involuntary tightening of the vaginal muscles).
A key part of treating vaginismus is learning how to relax the vaginal muscles to regain control over them. Dilator therapy aims to teach a woman that she is in control of her body and what enters it. By retraining her body and regaining control of her pelvic muscles, she can free her body from feeling that it has to protect her by tightening the vaginal muscles to prevent penetration. A physical therapist or cognitive-behavioral therapist may teach the relaxation techniques.
For vaginal stenosis, women simply perform dilator therapy at home at their own pace during practice sessions of 5 to 10 minutes daily.
Instructions for dilator therapy may vary from clinician to clinician, but one method is to start with the largest dilator that comfortably fits into your vagina. The dilator should always be comfortable, as any discomfort may increase the possibility of involuntary tightening of the vaginal muscles (vaginismus). After putting a small amount of lubricant on the dilator, place it gently into your vagina. It doesn’t have to go all the way in to stretch the opening; halfway in will work. Slowly move the dilator in and out of your vagina, leaving it in for 1 to 2 minutes each time. Spend about 5 minutes on these exercises while you recline with a book, listen to relaxing music, or watch television. Perform these exercises once or twice a day until the dilator is no longer stretching your vagina. Then repeat the process with the next larger dilator.
Intercourse will be most comfortable if you can successfully use the dilator that is just slightly larger than your partner. If you have intercourse often, you may not need to use the dilator anymore. If you have intercourse less than once a week, you may need to use the dilator in between to maintain what you have accomplished. Dilators are also useful when partners are separated for a while or when one partner is ill and not able to have intercourse.