The procedure commonly referred to as a D & C is dilation and curettage. It is a surgical operation designed to treat miscarriage in women and is often mistaken for a D & A, or dilation and aspiration, which is performed during the first trimester. The difference between the two is that an aspiration involves the use of suction, while curettage requires a sharp device.
The purpose of a D & C is to preserve the health (and sometimes save the life) of a pregnant woman. The body will continue to expel blood until all remnants of pregnancy are purged from the body, which can be very dangerous if the process takes a long time. Through dilation and curettage, doctors are able to stop the bleeding and help women continue on to the recovery stage.
There has been some controversy recently regarding the role of D & C when miscarriage is eminent. In some cases, a woman is told that the baby is no longer alive, so she is given the option of a still birth or a D & C. Some believe that using a D & C in this manner is equivalent to abortion and should not be legal, regardless of the emotional and physical trauma a woman may experience during a miscarriage or still birth.
While this procedure is largely beneficial to the woman, there are still some risks involved. These include scarring in the uterus, puncturing the uterus, weakening the cervix and other surgical complications. Doctors may perform D & C's in either a hospital or a doctor’s office, but if heavy bleeding takes place a woman will likely already be in the hospital.
Anesthesia is administered during a D & C and sometimes sedation is needed or preferred. The procedure feels largely like a pelvic exam, and you may experience some cramping if you are awake. Afterwards, you will be prescribed medication to manage your pain and will not be able to use tampons or have sex for two weeks.
While recovering, most women find the psychological effects of a D & C to be worse than the physical effects. Depending on how far along you were in your pregnancy, your period may resume in anywhere from six to eight weeks.