A dilation and curettage procedure, also called a D&C, is an out-patient surgical procedure in which the cervix is dilated (opened) so that the uterine lining (endometrium) can be scraped with a curette to sample endometrial tissue. A suction D&C uses suction to remove uterine contents. This is sometimes called a dilation and evacuation (D&E). This is generally done to treat a miscarriage.
A D&C may be used as a diagnostic or therapeutic procedure for abnormal bleeding. A D&C may be performed to determine the cause of abnormal or excessive uterine bleeding, to detect cancer, or as part of an infertility investigation. A D&C may be used following a miscarriage to remove the fetus and other tissues if they have not all been naturally passed. Infection or heavy bleeding can occur if these tissues are not completely removed. This type of D&C may also be called a surgical evacuation of the uterus or a D&E. Occasionally following childbirth, small pieces of the placenta remain adhered to the uterus and are not passed. This can cause bleeding or infection. A D&C may be used to remove these fragments so that the endometrium can heal properly.
As with any surgical procedure, complications may occur. Some possible complications of a D&C may include, but are not limited to, heavy bleeding, infection, perforation of the uterine wall or bowel, and adhesions (scar tissue) may develop inside the uterus.
Normal side effects of a D&C may last a few days and include mild cramping and spotting or light bleeding. For discomfort from cramping, your doctor may suggest taking ibuprofen (Advil, or Motrin) or another medication.
Wait to put anything in your vagina until your cervix returns to normal to prevent bacteria from entering your uterus, possibly causing an infection. Ask your doctor when you can use tampons and resume sexual activity.
Your uterus must build a new lining after a D&C, so your next period may not come on time. If you had a D&C because of a miscarriage, and you want to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about when it's safe to start trying again.
Notify your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Heavy bleeding
- Foul-smelling drainage from your vagina
- Fever and/or chills
- Severe abdominal pain