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Dilatation and curettage

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Dilatation and curettage (D&C) is a procedure to remove tissue from inside your womb (uterus).
  • It may be done to diagnose abnormal vaginal bleeding or after a miscarriage.

What is a dilatation and curettage?

Dilatation and curettage is also called a 'D&C' or simply 'curette'. It's an operation to remove tissue from the inside of your uterus (womb).

D&C refers to opening the cervix (dilatation) followed by removal of tissue from inside the uterus (curettage).

Sometimes a D&C is done at the same time as another procedure, such as a hysteroscopy.

When is a D&C done?

A D&C can be done to help diagnose the cause of abnormal vaginal bleeding, including:

Tissue is removed from your uterus and sent to a laboratory for testing. This can help work out the cause of your bleeding.

A D&C may be recommended to remove pregnancy tissue after a miscarriage. It can also be done as a surgical abortion.

How to prepare for a dilatation and curettage

Your doctor will ask you a series of questions before a D&C. Make sure you tell them if you are pregnant or might be pregnant. Also tell them if you have a history of bleeding or allergies.

You should follow any instructions on drinking and eating before the procedure.

Sometimes medicine may be given to soften your cervix before the procedure.

What happens during a D&C?

A D&C is usually done in a hospital operating theatre under general anaesthetic. It can also be performed with an epidural anaesthetic.

Once you can't feel anything, your doctor will insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina so they can see your cervix. They will slowly dilate the cervix using a series of thicker and thicker rods.

They will then insert an instrument called a curette to remove tissue from the lining of the uterus. This can also be done with a suction device.

The procedure normally takes 5 to 10 minutes. You will need to wait in recovery for a few hours afterwards.

Illustration showing the steps involved in a D&C.
D&C involves 2 main steps: dilatation of the cervix followed by removal of tissue from the lining of the uterus using an instrument called a curette.

Recovering from a dilatation and curettage

It will take you a day or so to recover if you had a general anaesthetic. You should have someone with you when you go home. You should also not drive, operate machinery or drink alcohol for at least 24 hours after the procedure.

You can get back to most normal activities in a couple of days.

You might feel some cramping and discomfort after a D&C. You can control this with pain-relief medicines and a heat pack.

You may have light vaginal bleeding for 10 to 14 days. Use sanitary pads, not tampons or a menstrual cup.

To reduce the risk of infection after a D&C, your doctor will recommend you temporarily avoid:

  • swimming, baths and spa baths
  • using tampons or menstrual cups
  • sex

Possible risks or complications

Complications during or after a D&C are rare, but include:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • perforation (a small tear in the wall) of the uterus
  • a reaction to the anaesthetic
  • adhesions (bands of scar tissue) inside the uterus

You should see your doctor 1 to 2 weeks after the procedure, but call them earlier if you experience:

  • heavy vaginal bleeding (you need to change your pad every 10 to 20 minutes)
  • fever
  • passing blood clots larger than a 50 cent piece
  • cramps for more than 48 hours
  • worsening pain that doesn't go away after taking pain-relief medicines
  • a foul-smelling discharge from your vagina

Contact your doctor if your periods do not return within 3 months of having a D&C.

Resources and support

Visit healthdirect's surgical procedures pages to learn more about:

If you want to know more about dilatation and curettage or need advice, you can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2023


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