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Understanding women’s surgery: What to expect from a D&C

If your doctor recommends that you undergo a procedure called dilation and curettage (D&C, for short), what can you expect? Minimal risk and a short recovery.

D&C is one of the most frequently performed of all surgical procedures. D&C is used to:

  • Treat heavy bleeding from the uterus.
  • Test for cancer of the uterus.
  • Remove polyps (benign growths) in the uterus.
  • Remove the remnants of a miscarried pregnancy.

Sometimes D&C can be done in a doctor’s office with a local anesthetic, one that numbs only the lower part of your body while you remain awake. However, many physicians prefer to do the procedure only in the hospital with a general anesthetic, which puts you to sleep and relaxes your whole body. The greater degree of relaxation allows for a more thorough examination.

During the short procedure, your surgeon will perform a regular pelvic exam. He or she may then take tissue specimens from the lining of your cervical canal, which connects the uterus and the vagina. After dilating (widening) your cervical canal with a series of tapered rods, your surgeon will use an instrument (called a curette) with a sharp, spoon-shaped tip to scrape the lining of your uterus. The tissue that’s collected will be sent to a lab for testing.

How can you expect to feel after a D&C? Expect some bleeding and menstrual-like cramps for the first day or so. If you develop severe abdominal pain that persists even after taking acetaminophen or aspirin, alert your doctor. Acute pain, fever or unusually heavy bleeding may indicate a puncture of the uterus or an infection.

Take it easy for the first 24 hours. Arrange for someone to drive you home. If possible, ask a friend or relative to help you with routine tasks.

For two weeks, don’t use tampons, douche or have sexual intercourse. Giving the cervical canal time to shrink back to normal size before resuming these activities will help reduce the risk of infection.