During the procedure
For dilation and curettage, you receive anesthesia. General anesthesia makes you unconscious and unable to feel pain. Other forms of anesthesia provide light sedation or use injections to numb only a small area (local anesthesia) or a larger region (regional anesthesia) of your body. The choice of anesthesia depends on the reason for the D&C and your medical history.
During the procedure:
- You lie on your back on an exam table while your heels rest in supports called stirrups.
- Your doctor inserts an instrument called a speculum into your vagina, as during a Pap test, in order to see your cervix.
- Your doctor inserts a series of thicker and thicker rods into your cervix to slowly dilate your cervix until it's adequately opened.
- Your doctor removes the dilation rods and inserts a spoon-shaped instrument with a sharp edge or a suction device and removes uterine tissue.
Because you're either unconscious or sedated during D&C, you shouldn't feel any discomfort. The procedure usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes.
After the procedure
You may spend a few hours in a recovery room after the D&C so that your doctor can monitor you for heavy bleeding or other complications. This also gives you time to recover from the effects of anesthesia.
If you had general anesthesia, you may become nauseated or vomit, or you might have a sore throat if a tube was placed in your windpipe to help you breathe. With general anesthesia or light sedation, you may also feel drowsy for several hours.
Normal side effects of a D&C may last a few days and include:
- Mild cramping
- Spotting or light bleeding
For discomfort from cramping, your doctor may suggest taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) 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.
Feb. 15, 2014
- Stovall DW. Dilation and curettage. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 17, 2013.
- Frequently asked questions. Special procedures FAQ062. Dilation and curettage. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq062.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130917T1630247849. Accessed Sept. 17, 2013.
- DeCherney AH, et al. Current Diagnosis & Treatment Obstetrics & Gynecology.11th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=788. Accessed Sept. 17, 2013.
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- Q&A: What you should know before surgery. American Society of Anesthesiologists. http://www.lifelinetomodernmedicine.com/What-To-Expect/QA-What-You-Should-Know-Before-Surgery.aspx. Accessed Sept. 18, 2013.
- Breitkopf DM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 29, 2013.