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What Is A D&C?
Written by Clara Hinton   |  Jun 17, 2002
Sometimes when a couple is given the news that their baby has died, the couple will be asked if they want to miscarry naturally, or if they would like to opt for a D&C. Other times, there will be no choice in the matter. If the content of the uterus has not been completely emptied, a D&C will be performed.

Often, because a couple is dealing with the shock and sudden grief of a pregnancy that has ended, they fail to ask questions about the D&C procedure. And, many times a doctor will assume that the procedure is completely understood, and there are no questions. This often leads to additional grief because a woman does not understand what is being done to her body, and her husband is too afraid or too confused to ask any questions about the surgical procedure.

A D&C is a brief operation. Dilation means stretching the opening of the cervix with special instruments to make it wider. Once the opening of the cervix has been enlarged, another instrument is inserted into the uterus to loosen and remove the lining of the uterus. This is called curettage. This can be done with an instrument called a curette. Following a D&C, a new lining will build up in the uterus during the next menstrual cycle.

Will a D&C hurt? Your operation will be done with anesthesia, general or local, depending on your doctor’s choice. You will have very little discomfort following the D&C. You may experience some nausea and vomiting due to the type of anesthetic you are given, but this discomfort should not last for more than a few hours. Following the procedure, you may have mild cramping for a few days. You will notice spotting or slight bleeding from the uterus for about a week. Your first menstrual period following a D&C may not be on time, so keep that in mind. And, always call your physician with any questions, no matter how trite they may seem.

Problems seldom occur with a D&C, however you should especially be aware of infection which can cause pain and fever. If you should experience heavy vaginal bleeding or a foul discharge or odor, be sure to call your doctor at once. It is important to get infection treated immediately.

You will probably have your D&C as outpatient surgery, being released from the hospital a few hours following surgery. In a day or two you will be able to drive and resume most normal activities. Of course you are able to shower following the D&C procedure.

The most difficult part of the healing will be the emotional part. A D&C is the final validation of the loss of your baby. Emptying of the uterus is a very symbolic washing away of the baby that was being nurtured, and can often become a source of deep grief. A mother and father need to be extra gentle with each other during this difficult time.

Remember that it takes time to deal with your emotions and the finality of the miscarriage. Talk to your doctor about your feelings. No question or expression of concern is ever considered to be insignificant. Remind yourself often that a D&C, although the end of a pregnancy, is also paving the way for the beginning of your fertility again. By understanding a D&C, fear is eliminated and you can begin the journey that is called grief in a more positive, healing way.
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