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Women's Health

Select An Article

D and C (Dilation and Curettage)

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What to Expect When Having a D&C continued...

A D&C involves two main steps:

  • Dilation involves widening the opening of the lower part of the uterus (the cervix) to allow insertion of an instrument. The doctor may insert a slender rod (laminaria) into the opening to gradually cause it to widen. Or medication may soften the cervix to help it widen.
  • Curettage involves scraping the lining and removing uterine contents with a long, spoon-shaped instrument (a curette). The doctor may also use a cannula to suction any remaining contents from the uterus. This can cause some cramping. In many cases, a tissue sample goes to a lab for examination.

Sometimes other procedures are performed along with a D&C. For example, your doctor may insert a slender device to view the inside of the uterus (called hysteroscopy).

After a D&C, there are possible side effects and risks. Common side effects include:

  • Cramping
  • Spotting or light bleeding

Complications such as a damaged cervix and perforated uterus or bowel are rare. But be sure to contact your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms after a D&C:

  • Heavy or prolonged bleeding or blood clots
  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Foul-smelling discharge from the vagina

In very rare cases, scar tissue (adhesions) may form inside the uterus. Called Asherman's syndrome, this may cause infertility and changes in menstrual flow. Surgery can repair this problem, so be sure to report any menstrual flow changes after a D&C.

Recovery After a D&C

After a D&C, you will need someone to take you home. If you had general anesthesia, you may feel groggy for a while and have some brief nausea and vomiting. You can return to regular activities within one or two days. In the meantime, ask your doctor about any needed restrictions. You may also have mild cramping and light spotting for a few days. This is normal. You may want to wear a sanitary pad for spotting and take pain relievers for pain.

You can expect a change in the timing of your next menstrual period. It may come either early or late. To prevent bacteria from entering your uterus, delay sex and use of tampons until your doctor says it's OK.

See your doctor for a follow-up visit and schedule any further treatment that's needed. If any tissue was sent for a biopsy, ask your doctor when to expect results. They are usually available within several days.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH on October 03, 2014
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