Vaginal Stretching

Updated: MAY 16, 2023
Reviewed by Dr. Sunny Rodgers
on June 3, 2023

Vaginal stretching is a widening and lengthening of the vagina. Vaginal stretching may occur naturally during pregnancy, childbirth and the aging process. It can be an intentional technique used to reduce vaginal tightness, which can prevent people from enjoying penetrative sex. Vaginal stretching may also help people have an easier childbirth. In the realm of kink and BDSM, people may try vaginal stretching to train their bodies for sexual experiences like fisting. Vaginal stretching or stretching to create gaping is also a kink for some people.

People might try vaginal stretching if they have conditions that cause vaginal tightness, such as vaginismus; vulvodynia; congenital conditions such as a vagina that isn’t fully formed; vaginal atrophy from menopause; or damaged vaginal tissue after childbirth, radiation or an injury. This technique may help reduce or stop discomfort during penetrative sex, fingering and penetrative play with sex toys. Vaginal stretching may also make using tampons easier.

How is vaginal stretching done?

Vaginal stretching usually involves placing an item inside the vagina and leaving it in place for a prolonged period to stretch it out. Vaginal dilators, which are available in a range of sizes, are most commonly used for vaginal stretching. Users start with the smallest dilator and move to progressively larger dilators once they feel comfortable. People may also use dildos and vibrators of different sizes for vaginal stretching. Some people stretch their vaginas using their own fingers or devices used to prepare people for childbirth.

Vaginal Stretching in BDSM

People may also use the term vaginal stretching in the BDSM community to refer to stretching out the vagina to create a gaping open hole. Within this community, a dominant partner may train the submissive’s vagina to stay open and be more accessible to pleasure. This type of vaginal stretching focuses on stretching the muscles that control the opening and closing of the vagina. As with traditional vaginal stretching, members of the BDSM community may use large dildos or vibrators to stretch the vagina. They may also use household items such as soda cans, balls, or apples.

Vaginal stretching is sometimes called pussy stretching. This more colloquial term is especially popular in the BDSM community and in porn showcasing the vaginal stretching common in this community.

More About Vaginal Stretching

Vaginal tightness isn’t simply about having a vagina that is too narrow or short for comfortable penetration. While it may change slightly through life, the vagina tends to stay roughly the same size. However, when the pelvic floor muscles are relaxed, the space in the vagina becomes less constricted. When the pelvic floor muscles engage, as they do when people feel anxious or experience pain, the vagina feels tighter. Practicing vaginal stretching teaches the pelvic muscles to accept penetration and stay relaxed. While this can make the vagina lengthen and widen, it is not really stretching the vagina in any permanent way.

Vaginal dilators are excellent tools for vaginal stretching as they are designed for this purpose. Manufacturers create them from materials that are safe to insert into the vagina. They are usually sold in kits with dilators of different sizes, so users can move through the stretching program at their own pace in the privacy of their own homes.

How to Choose and Use Vaginal Dilators for Vaginal Stretching

Vaginal dilators are available in various materials, which impact how they feel for users. Plastic dilators were once the preferred choice. While these dilators are durable and easy to care for, some people find inserting this rigid material uncomfortable. However, some medical practitioners say they are the most effective tool for stretching the vagina. Magnetic dilators, made from medical-grade polycarbonate plastic fitted with magnets, are another option. While these are also rigid, the magnets may increase blood flow to the vagina and aid healing. Many people prefer modern silicone dilators. While they are durable, they are also softer and more flesh-like to the touch. This can make them easier to insert and help people who feel fearful or nervous transition to penetrative sex with a partner.

"I prefer my patients at least start with rigid plastic dilators," confirmed Dr. Heather Jeffcoat, a pelvic floor physical therapist, president of the Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy and owner of Femina Physical Therapy in Los Angeles. "My program takes an active approach to vaginal stretching, using traditional physical therapy techniques for muscle relaxation that have been applied to the pelvic floor. This includes an active stretch component and self-directed massage techniques. Smaller silicone dilators are too flexible to provide the needed pressure in giving these stretches. Small silicone dilators are great for desensitization of overly sensitive vulvar and vaginal tissue, but it cannot provide a meaningful stretch. When patients get to larger sizes of dilators that are closer to their goal, at that point I'll have them switch to a softer, silicone dilator as these tend to be better tolerated at the end of their program."

After choosing the right material, people wanting dilators should consider the best size for their needs. Dr. Jeffcoat recommends purchasing a kit with at least four rigid plastic dilators ranging from the size of a finger to, if it's the desired goal, the size of a partner's erect penis. She recommends people with a lot of fear surrounding penetration or unconsummated relationships choose a kit with more dilators as they have smaller transitions. She notes that even the largest dilators are too small for fisting preparation, but sexual wellness stores have devices better suited to this kind of vaginal stretching.

Users can apply a water-based lubricant to the rounded end of their chosen dilator to make insertion easier. Water-based lubes won’t degrade dilators and can be easily washed out of clothes. Lying on the back or sitting in a semi-reclined position are relaxed positions that allow for easier insertion. Conscious relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles and taking slow, deep breaths can also help users relax their bodies and stay calm. They can then apply gentle pressure at the vaginal opening to insert the dilator. It should move down, towards the spine, similar to a tampon. Users can take their time inserting the dilator until they feel some minor discomfort or tension in their muscles. It should feel snug but not painful. If it does, the dilator may be too large. If there is no discomfort, the dilator may be too small.

Once the dilator is in place, users should pay attention to the sensations and try to keep their pelvic floor muscles relaxed. They can start by keeping the dilator in for just a few minutes and gradually increase this time. Users should remove their dilators before a maximum of 10 minutes. Users can repeat the exercise each day, gradually increasing the size of their dilator as they feel begin to feel comfortable and pain-free. Progress times vary, so it's important for users to be patient with the process. A physical therapist may assist people using dilators reach their goals. For those looking to do vaginal stretching for fisting or BDSM play, the process is the same, only they are likely looking to stretch the vagina to a much larger size.

How to Care for and Clean a Vaginal Dilator

Cleaning the dilator with warm water and a neutral pH soap can help prevent infections. Users can then store their clean dilator according to the manufacturer’s instructions until its next use. If stretching the vagina manually with fingers, they should be cleaned with short nails to minimize the risk of tearing. It’s safest to use commercial dilators or sex toys made from medical-grade materials rather than household items that are not intended for insertion into the body. People with undiagnosed pelvic pain or radiation to the pelvic area should also consult their doctor for guidance before starting a dilator program, according to Dr. Jeffcoat.


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