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Dilation and curettage

Click to play videoDilation and curettage – commonly referred to simply as D&C – can be a difficult thing to discuss, as it’s known to follow in the wake of traumatic events such as a miscarriage. There’s also something about the phrase itself that sounds unpleasant, although in reality, it’s a quick, routine surgical procedure. This overview will give you a better idea of what’s involved.

Why do I need it

Women undergo dilation and curettage for many different reasons. On the one hand, it is used as a diagnostic tool: If your doctor suspects you have small growths called polyps, or a type of gynecological cancer, he or she might use D&C to collect a sample of your uterus lining for further testing.

It can also be a treatment: doctors carry it out to remove polyps, or to deal with abnormal or irregular bleeding. If you’ve had a miscarriage or had an abortion, D&C is often recommended to remove fetal tissue from your womb. This can be distressing, but it can cause infection if left behind. Some women need to have this procedure after their baby has been born, if some placental tissue remains stuck inside.

What happens during the procedure?

Dilation and curettage is generally a simple, brief operation for your doctor to perform. Although you will probably have general anesthesia, you’ll still be in and out of the hospital within the day.

The ‘dilation’ part of the phrase refers to the widening of the cervix – the small opening that leads from your vagina to your uterus. The ‘curettage’ bit comes from the French word curette, meaning to scoop, and involves removal of some of the womb lining (endometrium).

A speculum – the same device used to widen your vagina for a smear test – will be inserted and then your cervix will be opened up so that it’s wide enough to allow through the curette which sucks out the endometrial lining.

Although the idea of having this done probably seems unpleasant, it’s important to remember that it’s being done to safeguard your future health and – should you wish to have children – to better prepare your body for pregnancy. So focus on the benefits and it’ll be over before you know it!

How will I feel afterwards?

As we’ve already said, you’ll be at home later the same day. You might not feel 100% for a day or two – much of this is due to the after effects of the anesthetic. Expect a bit of grogginess, lethargy, some menstrual-like cramps, light spotting or bleeding and perhaps a little sickness. Bear in mind that the start of your next menstrual cycle may be earlier or later than usual.

Your cervix will take a couple of weeks to shrink in size again, meaning that you’ll be more prone to infection, so you’ll need to abstain from sex and keep anything else out of there too!

Further complications are rare but infection or perforation of the uterus or bowel can occur on occasion. So simply let your doctor know if you experience heavy bleeding, pain or unusual discharge in the days following your procedure.

If you’ve had D&C to test for something, you’ll undoubtedly be nervous about the results. There’s nothing else you can do for the few days while you wait, so try to distract yourself with something more interesting! Buy yourself a new pair of shoes, perhaps?

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