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What to Expect from a D&C or D&E

Get the facts on everything you'll want to know before your procedure.

If you’re having either a D&E (dilation & evacuation) or D&C (dilation & curettage) procedure, it will be done in a hospital or other surgical center, and unless you undergo complications, you’ll most likely be able to go home that same day. Your doctor will probably suggest you get pain meds before the procedure, though a lot of women opt to undergo a general anesthetic and not be awake during it at all. Be sure to talk to your doc about what you’re more comfortable with beforehand. If you choose to be awake, know that you’ll likely feel some cramping -- this is normal. Just remember to try to stay as calm and relaxed as possible.

A D&C is usually done in the first trimester, after a miscarriage. Your surgeon will first dilate your cervix to allow the tissue to be removed from your uterus, and then remove it in one of two ways: either by using a loop-shaped curette instrument or a suction curettage that acts like a small vacuum.

A D&E is done during the second trimester and is pretty similar to a D&C in that it uses a vacuum aspiration, but requires more surgical instruments to remove the tissue (like forceps). Because it’s done later on in a pregnancy, it can take a little longer. (A D&E usually lasts about 30 minutes, whereas a D&C may be closer to 20.)

Here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind when it comes to your post-op recovery:

[ ] Take it easy. You won’t be in any shape to drive home, so make sure your partner or someone close to you comes along for emotional support and a lift home. After 24 hours have passed, you can enjoy nonstrenuous activities, and in a few days, you’ll be back to your normal routine.

[ ] Your doctor will give you antibiotics, but you can also take pain meds like Tylenol or Advil for any post-procedure cramping. Don’t panic if you feel severe cramps for 24 hours after; you might even have mild cramps for up to two weeks -- this is all normal.

[ ] Use pads, not a tampon, for any bleeding you might have. You can expect to most likely bleed anywhere from a few days to two weeks.

[ ] Hold off on having sex or douching soon afterward -- you don’t want anything in your vagina for up to two weeks.

Find more info on miscarriage and pregnancy loss at the American Pregnancy Association.

-- Amy Stanford

See More: Miscarriage and Loss