D&C stands for dilation and curettage. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), defined a D&C as a procedure used to diagnose or treat many conditions that cause abnormal bleeding from the uterus. It also can be used to help detect cancer of the uterus.
According to WebMD, a D&C involves two main steps. Dilation involves widening the opening of the cervix to allow insertion of an instrument. The doctor may insert a slender rod into the opening to gradually cause it to widen. Curettage involves scraping the lining and removing uterine contents with a long, spoon-shaped instrument called a curette. The doctor may also use a cannula to suction any remaining contents from the uterus. In many cases, a tissue sample goes to a lab for examination.
The Mayo Clinic listed several reasons to perform a D&C:
-Remove a molar pregnancy, in which a tumor forms instead of a normal pregnancy.
-Treat excessive bleeding after delivery by clearing out any placenta remaining in the uterus.
-Remove cervical or uterine polyps.
-Remove fibroid tumors.
-Clear out any tissue that remains in the uterus after a miscarriage or abortion.
The American Pregnancy Association said the main goal of treatment during or after a miscarriage is to prevent hemorrhaging and/or infection. If the body does not expel all the tissue, the most common procedure performed to stop bleeding and prevent infection is a D&C.
The procedure itself takes place at a hospital or outpatient clinic. Women are given an anesthetic and it can take between 10 and 30 minutes.
Common side effects after the procedure include cramping and spotting or light bleeding that lasts for a few days up to two weeks. The American Pregnancy Association said most women can return to normal activities within a few days. Also, some may experience painful cramping initially, but it shouldn’t last longer than 24 hours.
WebMD said rare complications from a D&C are a damaged cervix or perforated uterus or bowel.
After a D&C, the uterus needs to build up a new lining. This may cause the woman’s following menstrual period to be irregular.
ACOG says until the cervix returns to its normal size, bacteria can enter the uterus and cause infection. It is important that women not to put anything into their vaginas after the procedure. They should ask their doctor when they can have sex or use tampons again.
Reviewed July 7, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Alison Stanton