Treatments and tests

Dilatation and curettage (D&C)

What is a dilatation and curette (D&C)?

A D&C is an operation to lightly scrape the inside of the uterus (womb).

The cervix (neck of the uterus) is dilated using an instrument called a dilator.

The endometrium (lining) of the uterus is then scraped using a curette.

After the procedure

After a general anaesthetic

It is essential that someone is with you from the time you leave hospital until the next day, including overnight.

For at least 12 hours avoid:

  • any activity that uses skill or judgement, such as cooking, making hot drinks and looking after young children
  • going out socially.

For at least 24 hours avoid:

  • driving a car or operating machinery
  • drinking alcohol
  • making important decisions or signing important or legal documents.

Once you go home

After you have a D&C you should rest when you get home. 

You can go back to normal activities after 1 to 2 days (although the effects of the anaesthetic may make you feel tired).

It is normal to experience some cramping or mild abdominal discomfort after a D&C. To help ease this discomfort you can:

  • take paracetamol, panadeine or other medication as directed by your doctor
  • use a heat pack.

A small amount of bleeding (like a light period) may last for 10 to 14 days. Bleeding may become heavier with increased activity, such as lifting.

You may:

  • use sanitary pads
  • shower as usual

For 1 week you should not:

  • swim, bath or use a spa
  • have sexual intercourse
  • use tampons.

Your next period will usually begin 3 to 6 weeks after the operation. You may find this period is heavier than usual.

If you were using an oral contraceptive pill before the procedure, continue using it as usual. Your next period will begin when you finish the packet.

Speak to your doctor about the most suitable contraception options for you. 

Follow-up

It is important to visit your doctor for a check-up 2 weeks after your operation.

When to seek medical advice

Seek urgent medical advice from your doctor or emergency department if you experience any of the following:

  • heavy bleeding that requires changing of your sanitary pad every 10 to 20 minutes
  • passing large blood clots (larger than a 50 cent piece) or pieces of pregnancy tissue
  • a fever (high temperature) or chills
  • pain in the lower abdomen (stomach) that does not go away after taking pain relief medication 
  • a smelly discharge from your vagina.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222

Remember

  • A D&C is an operation performed on women to scrape away the lining of the womb.
  • Women have D&Cs to treat a variety of different conditions.
  • Typically you will have a general anaesthetic before the procedure.
  • Future treatment depends on diagnosis of your D&C.

Acknowledgements
Women and Newborn Health Service

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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