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Dilation and Curettage

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Dilation and Curettage



Dilation is a procedure to open and widen the cervix. The cervix is the entrance to the uterus. Curettage is the removal of the lining of the uterus by scraping. The procedures are done together and are often called a D&C.

Dilation and Curettage

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Reasons for Procedure

A D&C may be done to find the cause of abnormal bleeding or to treat it. For example, it may be done to treat bleeding that has not responded to other methods. Some common issues that may be treated with a D&C are:

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Infection
  • Injury to the cervix or uterus
  • Scarring of the lining of the uterus
  • Damage to other organs in the abdomen
  • The need for more surgery
  • The need to remove the uterus—hysterectomy

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • Infection
  • Chronic health problems, such as diabetes or obesity

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The care team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the procedure
  • Fasting before the procedure, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Arranging for a ride to and from surgery
  • Tests that will need to be done before the procedure, such as a pelvic exam to find out the size and location of the uterus


The doctor may give:

  • A sedative—you will feel relaxed
  • Local anesthesia—the area will be numbed
  • General anesthesia—you will be asleep

Description of Procedure

A tool called a speculum will be placed in the vagina to hold it open. A cervical dilator will be placed into the opening. A scoop shaped tool will be passed into the uterus to scrape the lining. The tissue will be removed through the vagina. The tools will be removed.

How Long Will It Take?

15 minutes

Will It Hurt?

Pain and cramping are common on the first day. Medicine and home care can help.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

After the procedure, the staff may:

  • Give you pain medicine
  • Give you a sanitary pad to absorb bleeding

At Home

It will take about two days to recover. Activities will be limited during this time. Sex and tampon use will need to be avoided until the doctor says it is safe.

Problems to Look Out For

Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • Foul smelling vaginal discharge
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vaginal bleeding that is soaking more than one sanitary pad every hour
  • New or worsening symptoms

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.





  • D&C procedure after a miscarriage. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at:
  • Dilation and curettage. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at:
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.