Is a D and C?
A dilation and curettage is also called a “D & C” or “D
and C.” It’s a minor surgery that involves dilating or opening the cervix.
The cervix is the
opening to your uterus or womb. After dilating your cervix, your doctor uses a
spoon-shaped object called a curette to
remove tissue from the inner lining of your uterus.
The procedure occurs in a doctor’s office, a women’s health
clinic, a day surgery center, or a hospital.
Is a D and C Used?
There are many reasons that a doctor might order this
procedure. The most common reasons are:
- to determine the reason for heavy bleeding
during or between your menstrual periods
- to remove non-cancerous tumors, or fibroids
- to remove and examine potentially cancerous
- to remove infected tissue, which is often caused
by a sexually transmitted disease called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- to remove tissue left behind in the womb after
miscarriage or childbirth
- to perform an elective abortion
- to remove an intrauterine device (IUD), which is
a form of birth control
Do I Prepare for a D and C?
Your doctor will give you written instructions on preparing
for your D and C. Always follow their instructions exactly. Some things you
might need to do include the following:
- Avoid eating or drinking the day of the surgery.
- Get a physical exam to make sure you’re healthy
enough for the procedure.
- Visit your doctor the day before so they can
apply a gel to start the process of opening your cervix.
- Arrange to take one or two days off from work or
- Make sure you have someone to drive you home
after the procedure.
Is the Procedure for a D and C?
You and your doctor have many choices when it comes to
anesthetics. A general anesthetic
means that you’ll receive medicine through a vein (IV) in your arm that causes
you to sleep deeply throughout the procedure. A general anesthetic is an option
only in a hospital or day surgery setting.
also called a spinal block,
involves injecting anesthetic into your spinal cord. You’ll remain awake for
the procedure, but you won’t be able to feel anything below the injection site.
As with general anesthetic, a spinal block is typically found in hospitals and
day surgery centers.
anesthetic means that the doctor will inject an anesthetic directly
into your cervix. You may feel a pinch and a sting with the injection. Once
your cervix is numb, you won’t be in any pain when your doctor dilates your
cervix. However, you may experience some cramping in your uterus when the
doctor removes the lining with a curette. A local anesthetic is an option in
your doctor’s office or a clinic.
If you’re anxious about your D and C, ask your doctor if they
can sedate you throughout the procedure. This may involve taking a pill for
anxiety, or it may involve injecting medication through an IV. You’ll be in a
light sleep during the procedure and will remember almost nothing about it
afterward if you receive IV
When you arrive, a nurse or a technician will ask you to
remove your clothing and put on a hospital gown. If you’ll be receiving general
anesthetic or IV sedation, a nurse will insert a small plastic catheter into a
vein. They’ll also hook you up to monitors that painlessly measure your blood
pressure, breathing, and heartbeat.
When your doctor is ready to start the procedure, they’ll
ask you to lie back on an examination table as you would if you were having a
Pap smear. You’ll rest your feet in stirrups, and a sheet or blanket will cover
your knees. Usually, one nurse is present to help the doctor and another is
available to monitor your vital signs and provide support and reassurance.
The operation will proceed as follows:
- Your doctor will insert a device called a
speculum to spread your vaginal walls so that they can see the cervix.
- Your doctor will dilate the cervix by inserting
a series of rods into your cervical opening. Each rod is a little thicker than
the one before it.
- After dilating the cervix, your doctor will
insert a spoon-shaped device called a curette, and draw the sides of the device
along the lining of the uterus.
- If the curette can’t loosen all the tissue, your
doctor may use a suction device as well. If you’ve had a local anesthetic, you’ll
probably notice some cramping.
- After removing the material from your uterus,
your doctor will remove the instruments from your body.
- Your doctor will send the material removed from
the uterus to a laboratory for analysis.
Are the Potential Complications of a D and C?
This is a very low-risk procedure because it’s minimally invasive.
However, any surgical procedure has some potential dangers. These may include:
- anesthesia-related problems with the heart and
lungs, which are rare
- blood clots related to staying in bed and not
moving around, which are rare if you follow your doctor’s instructions about
getting up regularly
- damage to the uterus or cervix that may result
These may be a sign of damage to your uterus or cervix:
- heavy bleeding
- foul-smelling discharge
- severe pain
Go to your doctor or an emergency room immediately if you experience
any of these symptoms.
Is the Recovery Process After a D and C?
It’s common to feel tired and experience light cramps for a
day or two after the procedure. You’ll remain in the facility a short time for
observation. You won’t be able to drive immediately after the procedure.
Arrange for a friend or family member to take you home.
Light bleeding is common after a D and C, so you’ll probably
want to wear a menstrual pad. Don’t use a tampon because it could cause an
infection. You may notice cramping for a few days. If your doctor doesn’t
prescribe pain medication, ask them which over-the-counter brand will best help
with your discomfort.
Even if it’s uncomfortable, get up and move around as soon as
possible. This will keep your muscles strong and help prevent blood clots from
forming in your legs.
You should be able to resume most of your routine within a
day or two after the procedure. However, your doctor will ask you to refrain
from taking a bath, douching, or having intercourse for at least three days and
If your doctor removes potentially cancerous tumors or
materials, you’ll get a report from your doctor’s office on the laboratory
findings. If the results are benign (non-cancerous),
you may not need a follow-up. If the results show cancerous or precancerous
cells, your doctor will probably refer you to a specialist to talk about your