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Women’s health centre

D and C (dilatation and curettage)

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

This information is for people who have heavy periods. It tells you about D and C (dilatation and curettage), a treatment used for heavy periods. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

We don't know. There isn't any good research on how this operation affects heavy periods.

What is it?

Dilatation and curettage is an operation to scrape out the lining of your womb. [43] Doctors normally use it to help diagnose any problems, rather than as a treatment.

Here's what happens.

  • Your doctor will put small instruments in your vagina that slowly stretch the neck of your womb ( cervix). This is called dilatation.

  • Once the cervix is wide enough, your doctor will scrape and suck out the surface layer of your womb. This is called curettage.

You'll probably be offered a drug to make you sleep (a general anaesthetic). But if you'd rather stay awake, you can have a drug to numb the area (a local anaesthetic) instead.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the government body that decides which treatments should be available on the NHS, says you should not be offered this operation, either as a treatment or a test. [79] That's because there isn't much research on dilatation and curettage. The research there is suggests it only has a very short-term effect.

How can it help?

There isn't enough research to show whether dilatation and curettage can help heavy periods. You may lose less blood during your first period after the operation. But this effect is unlikely to last, so later periods will probably be just as heavy as before. And sometimes they may even be heavier than before you had the operation. [80]

How does it work?

By removing the surface layer of your womb, doctors hope to reduce the amount of tissue that bleeds during your period.

But dilatation and curettage doesn't seem to work as well as other methods of getting rid of this lining. (To learn more, see Removing the womb lining.) This may be because dilatation and curettage removes only the top layer of the womb. Other methods remove a deeper layer.

Can it be harmful?

There is a small risk that dilatation and curettage may tear your womb or cervix. [81] Also, if you have a general anaesthetic, there's a very small chance that you could have heart problems and breathing problems during the operation.

How good is the research on D and C?

There's no good research on whether dilatation and curettage can help women with heavy periods.

Glossary

cervix

The cervix is a piece of tissue that sits between a woman's womb and her vagina. It has a small opening in it that gets much bigger when a woman is having a baby.

general anaesthetic

You may have a type of medicine called a general anaesthetic when you have surgery. It is given to make you unconscious so you don't feel pain when you have surgery.

local anaesthetic

A local anaesthetic is a painkiller that's used to numb one part of your body. You usually get local anaesthetics as injections.

For more terms related to Heavy periods

Citations

For references related to Heavy periods click here.
Last Updated: August 15, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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