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D&C PROCEDURE

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Unfortunately, miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Studies reveal that anywhere from 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage, and most miscarriages occur during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.

Pregnancy can be such an exciting time, but with the great number of recognized miscarriages that occur, it is beneficial to be informed on miscarriage in the unfortunate event that you find yourself or someone you know faced with one.

The main goal of treatment during or after a miscarriage is to prevent hemorrhaging and/or infection. The earlier you are in the pregnancy, the more likely that your body will expel all the fetal tissue by itself and will not require further medical procedures. If the body does not expel all the tissue, the most common procedure performed to stop bleeding and prevent infection is a D&C.

What is a D&C Procedure?

D&C, also known as dilation and curettage, is a surgical procedure often performed after a first trimester miscarriage. Dilation means to open up the cervix; curettage means to remove the contents of the uterus. Curettage may be performed by scraping the uterine wall with a curette instrument or by a suction curettage (also called vacuum aspiration), using a vacuum-type instrument.

Is a D&C necessary after a miscarriage?

About 50% of women who miscarry do not undergo a D&C procedure. Women can safely miscarry on their own, with few problems in pregnancies that end before 10 weeks. After 10 weeks, the miscarriage is more likely to be incomplete, requiring a D&C procedure to be performed. Choosing whether to miscarry naturally (called expectant management) or to have a D&C procedure is often a personal choice, best decided after talking with your health care provider.

Some women feel comfort in going through a miscarriage in their own home, trusting their own body to do what it needs to. Some see this as a vital part of the healing process, eliminating the question of “what if?” about the health of the pregnancy. There are also many women who miscarry who have a history of gynecological problems and don’t want to risk the possibility of any more complications occurring from having a D&C procedure done. For most first trimester miscarriages, expectant management should be a viable option.

For some women, the emotional toll of waiting to miscarry naturally is just too unpredictable and too much to handle in an already challenging time. Healing for them may only start once the D&C procedure is done. A D&C may be recommended for women who miscarry later than 10-12 weeks, have had any type of complications, or have any medical conditions in which emergency care could be needed.

How is a D&C procedure done?

A D&C procedure may be done as an outpatient or inpatient procedure in a hospital or other type of surgical center. A sedative is usually given first to help you relax. Most often, general anesthesia is used, but IV anesthesia or paracervical anesthesia may also be used. You should be prepared to have someone drive you home after the procedure if general or IV anesthesia is used.

1) You may receive antibiotics intravenously or orally to help prevent infection.

2) The cervix is examined to evaluate if it is open or not. If the cervix is closed, dilators
(narrow instruments in varying sizes) will be inserted to open the cervix to allow the surgical instruments to pass through. A speculum will be placed to keep the cervix open.

3) The vacuum aspiration (also called suction curettage) procedure uses a plastic cannula (a flexible tube) attached to a suction device to remove the contents of the uterus. The cannula is approximately the diameter in millimeters as the number of weeks gestation the pregnancy is. For example, a 7mm cannula would be used for a pregnancy that is 7 weeks gestation. The use of a curette (sharp edged loop) to scrape the lining of the uterus may also be used, but is often not necessary.

4) The tissue removed during the procedure may be sent off to the pathology lab for testing.

5) Once the health care provider has seen that the uterus has firmed up and that the bleeding has stopped or is minimal, the speculum will be removed and you will be sent to recovery.

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