Understanding the D&C

If you've just been told that you've lost your pregnancy, you are, undoubtedly, very upset. It's very important, when you have so many emotions going on, to understand the procedure that you now must undergo. The D&C is a very common procedure and one that many women experience. If you start to understand this procedure more, it may help you through this difficult time and ease any apprehension that you have about the procedure.

Who Needs a D&C?

This procedure, dilation and curettage, is performed on a woman whose pregnancy is no longer viable. If the uterus fails to empty its contents on its own, then the woman will need to have a D&C. Usually, if the abortion is necessary before the 12th week, it is possible to have other procedures done. Some women have a choice between having a D&C and having another procedure done, while others don't have a choice. It depends on your individual circumstances and the size of the fetus when the need for an abortion is discovered.

How to Prepare for a D&C

The D&C is usually done a hospital under the care of a trained doctor using general anesthesia, or it may be performed in your doctor's office using a local anesthetic. You'll be told not to eat for a certain amount of time before the procedure. An antiseptic will be used on your skin around your vagina and cervix to clean the area. You should ask your doctor if there are any other preparations that you need to make.

What Happens During the D&C?

During a D&C, a speculum is inserted into the vagina to open the walls so that the doctor can clearly see your cervix. There is a clamp-like instrument that will hold the cervix in place. The cervix will then be dilated. A curette is used to scrape the uterine walls and to extract the tissue in your uterus.

What Happens After the Surgery?

You will usually be released only a few hours after having the surgery. You'll probably have some discomfort from the general anesthesia which might include nausea, vomiting and a sore throat. These will last for a few days. You may also have mild cramping, spotting and slight bleeding for as long as a week. You should make sure that someone can take you home, as you won't want to drive after being under anesthesia. You should be able to return to your normal activities within a few days.


After having a D&C, you'll want to refrain from sexual activity, using tampons and douching for at least a week. The doctor may tell you to refrain from these activities even longer. You need to notify the doctor is you have fever, severe abdominal pain, heavy bleeding or vaginal discharge with a bad odor. You'll need to follow up with your doctor, as directed.

Most importantly, after having a D&C, make sure to nurture yourself. Your body needs time to recover, and you probably need some time to recover emotionally as well. Hopefully, as your body heals, you'll be ready to try again and to have a beautiful pregnancy in the future.

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