What to expect when you’re having a D & C

What to expect when you're having a D & C

There are several reasons a woman might be having a D & C, but irrespective of her reasons the surgery is invasive, often distressing and not to be too blunt, fucking horrible. We’re so good nowadays about writing blog posts about miscarriage, writing blog posts about abortion rights or talking about women’s issues such as uterine problems (which is a reason for this surgery though many assume it is only pregnancy related). We don’t seem to talk about D&Cs, and I don’t understand why. It’s scary to feel like you’re alone and when you head over to the internet to ask what to expect you get little but chat rooms and blunt medical explantations.

The truth is, the reason for a D and C can vary drastically but the surgery will almost always be very similar. Having been in the unfortunate position, like a lot of women, of having a D & C, I thought it might be useful to share my experience for those who are having the surgery and are as terrified as I was beforehand. Which, FYI, it’s ok to be – even if you’re choosing the D&C for a termination.

Here’s what to expect when having a D & C (dilation & curettage):

  • You can’t eat or drink for 6 hours beforehand.
  • When you first arrive at the clinic or hospital the chances are that, unless you have had one days before and specifically say you don’t want another, you will have an ultrasound scan. This is for several reasons depending on why you are having the procedure; from checking that there is no viable foetus to measuring the size of the foetus as that may effect what sedation you need.
  • There are two types of sedatives offered usually, mild sedation or full out general anaesthetic.
  • If the foetus is larger than a certain size, you will be advised to have a general anaesthetic over a sedation. The reason being that the procedure is more intense and you may feel something while under sedation and move slightly during the procedure. You won’t under general. This is usually 12 weeks+.
  • You will be asked to fill out forms. Not once, not twice but a few times. These are essentially just to make sure that you understand the procedure and want to go ahead.
  • You will be asked to put your legs in stirrups before you are sedated. Everything is (or should) be done to make you feel more comfortable and dignified but the truth is, this is like giving birth but without the joy at the end. It’s shit and undignified, but everything will be done to try and make it easier for you. Think of it in the same way as a smear test, no one likes one but it might be a necessity.
  • The procedure is quick, around 15 mins but you will be out for longer if you are under general anaesthetic than sedation.
  • The procedure is essentially a dilation of the cervix followed by a “removal of tissue from the uterus”. This can be pregnancy related OR in an attempt to diagnose uterine conditions.
  • You may feel drowsy for a while after the procedure and you can’t drive for 48hrs.
  • You may have no pain or you may be in a lot of pain. I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t quite wake up properly for the evening, which is unusual for me as I don’t get bad period cramps. Try to go with the flow and rest.
  • Keep on top of pain medication as prescribed or advised.
  • You will most likely not bleed for the first 24hrs and then you will more than likely have clots, bleeding and period like pains. You should’t soak through more than 2 pads an hour. If you do call the hospital or clinic immediately.
  • You can bleed for up to six weeks, though the norm is 2-3. This can be on and off, constant or in some cases nothing at all. Everyone is different – don’t panic if you’re different to your friend who had one.
  • You need to rest after. The more you do, the more you are likely to bleed and have pains, so go to your own rhythm but ease up if you are starting to hurt or bleed heavily.
  • You can still experience baby blues as the hormones leave your body if you have had a D&C for pregnancy related reasons. This is normal, and you are allowed to be sad or tearful, no matter what reason you had a D&C for.
  • You aren’t supposed to swim, have sex or part take in exercise for 2 weeks.
  • You need to repeat the pregnancy test after 3-4 weeks if it is relevant to your procedure.

So that is a D&C in a nutshell. I haven’t sugar coated it because, honestly, I didn’t want it sugar coated when I had mine – I just wanted the facts. It’s shit and upsetting and invasive. Regardless of why it’s happening, it is a sucky situation to be in. Just a few more things:

  • You are allowed to be scared, no matter the reason for your procedure.
  • You are allowed to be upset, no matter the reason for your procedure.
  • You are allowed to be angry at the indignity of it all, the shit-ness of it all, no matter the reason for your procedure.
  • If you’re having a D&C due to miscarriage, you haven’t failed. You haven’t done anything wrong. Be kind to yourself. When I had a miscarriage I felt this overwhelming sense that I had let myself down, that I was a failure and my body had betrayed me. That is wrong and simply not true.
  • If you’re having a D&C by choice to terminate a pregnancy you don’t feel you can keep (for whatever reason), you are not a bad person. You are allowed to be scared too. You are allowed to be conflicted and sad too. Be kind to yourself.

Lastly, a few pointers if you’re the partner or friend/family member of someone having a D&C:

  • Be there. Chances are (depending on her reasons for having the D&C) she is pretty upset, sore, angry or all of the above. She might ask for some alone time and that’s cool, but be there when she wants to have someone.
  • Listen. Again it all depends on the reasons, but if you can’t listen you are effectively useless. You won’t fix it with flowers or gifts if she is heartbroken from a miscarriage, or suffering with guilt from a termination. You need to listen, even if you are suffering too.
  • Help out with meals, cleaning and everything you can. Be prepared for her to be pissed as being mollycoddled, but help all the same.
  • Don’t judge. Don’t you dare. If you’re friend or family member tells you she’s had a D&C for whatever reason, you are a shitty friend or family member if you judge. It’s not your place and remember; it hurts when you fall off your pedestal.

Finally, finally, this is shit and I’m sorry you’re going through it. Know you are one of MILLIONS who have gone through this procedure for a variety of reasons, you are not alone.

H x

29 Comments

  1. June 16, 2016 / 11:30 pm

    It’s not a procedure one would choose to have but if it’s a necessity than I guess knowing about will help you to manage the pain, emotions and fear a little better.

    • Harriet June 20, 2016 / 6:32 am

      No, it’s not, but sometimes it’s unavoidable and for others it is the only path they feel they can take.

  2. June 16, 2016 / 2:19 am

    Such a brave post – you should be really proud. I’m sure your posts will help others. I blog about my transplant journey and although it is difficult, it I can help someone else it makes it all worthwhile.

  3. June 15, 2016 / 1:16 pm

    I actually didn’t know that you could have the proceedure for reasons not related to pregnancy so I have learned something too. I have reserched this a little as I nearly had to have one in the past when medical management looked like it was going to fail but I avoided it. I didn’t find anything as clear and non-sugar coated (but still reassuring) as your information is though – so that’s great a great thing for any women worrying about this who finds your post. You’ve done a great job talking about it when it’s sometimes so tough to force ourselves to remember and relive these things. Big Hugs. xx

  4. Thanks for sharing Harriet, I wish I could have read something like this before I had a D & C. I had always suffered from bad periods & had difficult births, so I had mine to remedy the problem, luckily I didn’t go through the pain & anguish of a miscarriage. I’m sure many readers will benefit from your post & what a good idea to add pointers for partners, family & friends, really useful.

  5. June 15, 2016 / 6:35 am

    Thank you for writing about this. I learned so much and really didn’t realize how much went into the procedure. I also had no idea one would be necessary after a miscarriage, I thought the body pushed out the “tissue” on its own. Wow. how extra traumatic.

  6. June 15, 2016 / 1:24 am

    I must admit, I didn’t have a clue what a D and C was before reading your post. It sounds like an awful procedure 🙁 xxx

  7. June 14, 2016 / 11:04 pm

    I guess it’s probably a good idea to know what’s coming beforehand. This is really helpful and this info should be more readily available.

  8. June 14, 2016 / 10:39 pm

    I’d never even heard of D&C, actually had to quickly Google what it was. It sounds really intense and painful x

  9. June 14, 2016 / 10:32 pm

    Oh god that is horrible, I can’t imagine the pain it takes to get through D& C, thank you for raising awareness and not sugar coating it! I think it is important to be aware of the facts!

  10. June 14, 2016 / 9:42 pm

    Awwww bless you love, I am sure this will help a lot of people. I think any family and friends should just be around and ready to help where necessary.

  11. June 14, 2016 / 9:02 pm

    This post is very informative and straight to the point, I think is quite a hard topic to discuss but good to have information available for others going through the procedure.

  12. June 14, 2016 / 7:03 pm

    It sounds horrible, I begged for one once and was refused although they shouldn’t have done. Am so sorry you have had to go through this x

  13. June 14, 2016 / 5:35 pm

    Thank you for this. There are so many women out there that need to hear this. I have thankfully never gone through a D and C. In fact, I knew the initialsbut not what they meant or stood for. It must be an awful procedure to go through.

  14. June 14, 2016 / 4:03 pm

    Wow I’ve never been through this myself but it sounds so awful. It’s so good you’ve written about this, it’s going to help so many women in the same situation. xx

  15. June 14, 2016 / 3:43 pm

    This is such an eye-opening post. Thanks for the courage and I adore you with it, dear.

  16. June 14, 2016 / 3:24 pm

    i’ve never had to experience this but know people who have by choice or not by choice and it’s never any fun. Sorry to hear about your experience but i agree, it is something people could talk about more.

  17. June 14, 2016 / 1:42 pm

    Brilliantly honest and practically helpful post – think it’s so great that you have grabbed the bull by the horns on this and shared this info so openly.

  18. June 14, 2016 / 12:56 pm

    Sounds so painful. I am last you have wrote about this topic though because it will help so many people x

  19. June 14, 2016 / 12:38 pm

    I can remember my mum going through this when I was little and I bet she wished there was something like this to read before.

  20. June 14, 2016 / 11:40 am

    I am glad someone has written about it I have to say, ive never been through and possibly never will (hopefully) but it was honest, non-judgmental and I hope that people searching for information, as we all do with Google, come across this post x

    • Harriet June 14, 2016 / 12:04 pm

      Thanks Rachel, I just hope it can help someone else, no matter what their circumstance. x

  21. June 14, 2016 / 10:43 am

    Oh bless your heart. This sounds awful. I think your post will help so many people though, and it’s great that you didn’t sugar coat it at all.

    Louise

    • Harriet June 14, 2016 / 10:50 am

      Thanks Louise. It’s a horrible procedure, not matter why you’re having it done, but sometimes it is necessary. H x

  22. June 14, 2016 / 9:45 am

    I had to google what a D & C is and what it’s for. So sorry you had to go through this and hope you’re feeling better right now. And you’re right, this shouldn’t be sugar-coated so women will at least know what to expect. x

    • Harriet June 14, 2016 / 10:38 am

      Thanks lovely, it needs to be less taboo x

  23. June 14, 2016 / 9:27 am

    Oh lord it sounds really invasive and painful. Inspirational that you’ve wrote this post as like you said I can imagine there’s plenty of women searching for this sort of post on the internet right now if they’re panicking about going in for this surgery

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