Dilation and curettage is a procedure that unfortunately is often done at a very emotional and delicate time in a woman’s life, after a miscarriage. The reason doctors perform this procedure is to remove any remains left behind within the uterus. It should always be done in hospital and by a qualified doctor.

As you know, when a woman is pregnant, the lining of her uterus changes quite significantly. The endometrium, the inner most layer, grows thick and fills up with rich blood in order to house the fertilized embryo safely. There are times when the body then rejects this embryo once it has started to grow. This could happen for a number of reasons – abnormalities and problems with the fetus are common causes. A miscarriage then occurs and the body attempts to expel everything that has grown in the uterus up until that point. Sometimes, you need a little bit of surgical help in this final process.

The thought of going through a procedure like this is scary for most women. It signals a very sad time and the recovery can be painful – emotionally and physically. However, it’s essential to go through with the procedure if your doctor recommends it. This is because the leftover tissue in the uterus could get infected and lead to very serious problems.

How does dilation and curettage work?

The procedure is done in a hospital or in surgical rooms attached to maternity homes. First, your doctor will widen or dilate the cervix through one of various methods. Next, they will use either the scraping method or suction to clean out the uterus. The scraping method is more conventionally used these days.

In many cases, the woman will be put under fully with anesthesia or given an epidural to prevent them from feeling any pain. The method of anesthetic will depend on the circumstances of the day, as well as the emotional and physical state of the woman at the time. The procedure usually doesn’t take very long to complete.

If necessary, the material collected from the curettage will be taken to a laboratory for analysis. In the case of recurring miscarriages, the doctor will take steps to determine the cause of this through biopsy and a post-mortem – depending on how far along the pregnancy was before miscarrying.

A miscarriage is actually not the only reason for needing this procedure. In some cases, curettage is actually done for women who are having problems with their menstruation cycle. If you are experiencing issues like overly frequent bleeding and severe abdominal pains, curettage can be used to diagnose what is happening. It can also be used bring the blood and lining of menstruation down in extreme cases.

Recovery from uterine dilation and curettage

Recovery is fairly simple, but each case is unique. If your pregnancy wasn’t too far along, you should be back on your feet quite quickly. However, if the miscarriage occurred at an advanced stage of pregnancy, it may take quite a long time to get back to normal physically – up to 40 days.

During your post-procedure days it’s essential to rest completely. This means no physical exertion and certainly no sexual intercourse. Your doctor will likely prescribe anti-inflammatories or even antibiotics if there is a risk of infection.

After the procedure, you will very likely experience some more bleeding. This is the body removing the last of the thickened lining from the uterus and is completely normal. This bleeding can last between 5 and 15 days. If it continues after this time, or is accompanied by a fever, chills or intense abdominal pain, consult your doctor.

Many women want to know if they can get pregnant after going through dilation and curettage, and if so, how long they should wait before trying again. You can absolutely try again to conceive. However, it’s important to listen to your doctor about the results of the procedure. If you were in the early stages of pregnancy when the miscarriage happened, you only need to wait around three months before trying again. If your pregnancy was fairly advanced already, your body will need a bit longer to recover. Rather wait four to six months before trying for another baby.

Remember, curettage is merely a way to help remove uterine debris after a natural miscarriage has already occurred. It is a helping hand to a natural process. However, it is an invasive procedure and you do need time to recover and to let the wounds inside your uterus heal properly.

Readers’ questions:

Is dilation and curettage painful?

You won’t feel any pain during the procedure as the doctor will give you a sedative of some form. In some cases, an epidural will be administered and in others, you’ll be put under a general anesthetic. The anesthetist will tell you what the best option is for you.

Do I need to bring personal items with me for after the procedure?

You would usually be asked to stay on in the hospital for monitoring after the procedure so it is a good idea to bring some personal items with you for your stay. Comfortable clothes or pajamas, underwear, toiletries and menstrual pads are all recommended. Your stay in hospital shouldn’t be more than one day, but your doctor will discuss this with you beforehand.