What is a Dilation and Curettage and why is it Done?

A Dilation and Curettage (D&C) is a minor surgical procedure used to remove tissue from a woman’s uterus. First the cervix is expanded (dilated) and then scraped with a spoon-shaped instrument known as a curette. The cervix forms the opening of the uterus and is located above the vagina. It normally only dilates during childbirth, but doctors can induce dilation if there is a medical need. Sometimes they will use medication to soften and dilate the cervix; other times, they will insert a laminaria stick, which is a narrow rod that absorbs fluid from the cervix, causing it to dilate. Ideally, during a D&C, the cervix will dilate by approximately 1.3 cm. The procedure is sometimes performed alongside a hysteroscopy, so that the doctor can visualise and evaluate the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) at the same time.

As with routine gynaecological check ups and pap smear tests, a D&C can usually be performed in a doctor’s office, without sedation or anaesthetic. However, anxious patients may benefit from undergoing the procedure in the operating room with local anaesthesia. Often over-the-counter painkillers are the only medication required and, once the cervix is sufficiently dilated the process should only take a couple of minutes.

Whilst many women have heard of a D&C, not all will know what the full scope of the procedure is and what it can be used for:

  • To remove retained tissue after a miscarriage
  • To take a sample of the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) for diagnosis purposes in cases of abnormal uterine bleeding, for example, heavy, prolonged periods or postmenopausal bleeding
  • As a treatment to thin the lining of the uterus, often used for women who have persistent heavy periods
  • To treat a molar pregnancy
  • To remove a retained placenta or treat a postpartum hemorrhage.

Nabta is reshaping women’s healthcare. We support women with their personal health journeys, from everyday wellbeing to the uniquely female experiences of fertility, pregnancy, and menopause

Get in touch if you have any questions about this article or any aspect of women’s health. We’re here for you.


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