A dilation and curettage (D&C) is a surgical procedure used to scrape the uterine lining to remove excess tissue. The procedure is sometimes needed after a miscarriage if the uterus has not fully shed fetal tissue. A D&C is one of the most common surgical procedures performed on women.
About 50% of women who miscarry do not need a D&C. The other 50%, unfortunately, need to undergo the procedure for their own safety. Sometimes during a miscarriage, a woman’s body does not expel all the fetal tissue. When tissue is left in the uterus, it can lead to heavier bleeding and infection. These risks make the D&C a medically necessary procedure.
A D&C can be performed as an outpatient procedure in a clinic or hospital. Sedation will be used, most likely in the form of general anesthesia. The provider will then dilate the cervix, in order to pass surgical instruments through. The tissue will then be removed from the uterus and may be sent to a lab for testing. The doctor will then make sure bleeding has stopped or slowed, and you will be taken to recovery.
The D&C procedure has a low-risk factor. It is an extremely common surgical procedure that modern medicine has mastered. The biggest risk associated with the procedure is with adverse reactions to anesthesia. Laceration or perforation of the uterus is also a risk, but extremely rare. After the procedure, you will be prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection.
Within 24 hours you will begin to feel better and be able to return to normal, non-strenuous activity. Light bleeding and cramping may occur for up to two weeks. Most women will return to a normal menstrual period in one or two weeks. Sex will not be recommended for two weeks, or until your provider clears you. In the unlikely event you experience heavy bleeding or cramps, call your provider right away.
The most important part of aftercare is taking care of your mental health. Miscarriages are traumatic experiences and you will need to find a solid community of support to heal. Be sure to ask friends and family for extra comfort and support during this time. Online communities of women in similar situations are abundant and can easily be found. Your provider is also a wonderful resource to help with the emotional aspects of miscarriage and the aftermath.