As if losing a child to miscarriage isn’t hard enough, adding surgery on top of that can be overwhelming for some women. I know it felt that way for me! For those who don’t know my story, I found out at 10 weeks that I miscarried my first child with my husband. My body did not expel the pregnancy on its own; I had what is called a missed miscarriage.
This type of miscarriage means that there are little to no symptoms, the baby just dies and usually the mother doesn’t find out until the next routine ultrasound. The only symptom I had was very light, bright pink discharge, but this was enough to send me to the ER in a panic. That night we found out we had lost the baby; I was supposed to be 10 weeks but he was only measuring at 9 weeks. This meant he had likely already been dead for a week or so, unbeknownst to me. My body held on to the pregnancy – both the tiny placenta and tiny baby remained inside of me – seemingly unphased by the fact that this little life was over now and the pregnancy was no longer viable. So, one week later at 11 weeks “pregnant” I found myself at the hospital having a D&C.
What is a D&C?
D&C stands for dilation and curettage; a surgical procedure that is performed to remove the contents of the uterus. The surgery is typically performed when a woman is having intrauterine problems, like an incomplete or missed miscarriage, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or heavy vaginal bleeding. Dilation is the act of opening your cervix; the “mouth” of the uterus. Curettage is the part where the tissue is removed- usually by suction or by a tool called a curette, which is a small metal tool used to scrape the uterine lining.
What happens during a D&C?
During the surgery, you lay on your back and they put your feet up in stirrups – exactly how it’s done during your yearly lady exam. A speculum is inserted into your vagina to open it, and then your cervix is dilated to access your uterus. The procedure is minimally-invasive, meaning that no cuts have to be made and that everything is done through the natural openings in your body. The surgery is commonly done under general anesthesia (they put you completely under), though sometimes it can also be done with a local anesthetic (they numb the area). It’s usually completed in less than 20 minutes, you have to wait around for a few hours, and then usually you get to go home. Just make sure you have someone to drive you! Depending on the circumstance, some of the extracted fetal tissue may be sent to labs for examination but in my case, the tissue was not tested. They may do this for recurrent miscarriages or at the family’s request.
How do you feel initially after the D&C?
Waking up from the surgery, the first person I saw was my husband, which was the most comforting thing. But I also remember feeling
- Tired and Groggy (from the anesthesia and from the pain medicine)
- Tender and Sore
- Nauseous and
I barely remember anything any of the doctors or nurses said to me that day. But I will always remember how I felt.
How was the recovery after the procedure?
Physically, recovery was a little painful but definitely manageable. I stayed in bed for a couple days and after that I was up and about, but my activity was restricted. I could not exercise, be submerged in water (no pools, hot tubs, bubble baths, etc.), lift anything heavy, wear tampons, have sex with my husband, or do any other vigorous activity for 4 weeks. Other than that, it was back to class and studying as “usual”.
My Gyn did prescribe Misoprostol, which is a medicine I took after the D&C that is used to stimulate contraction of the uterus. This is not required of everyone that has a miscarriage and I hated that I had to take it myself, but if it is indicated by your doctor then I advocate following their advice. They usually have you take it if you have retained some fetal tissue, it helps to expel everything and prevent infection. But please be aware: This same medicine can also be used to induce labor. It was painful. It was extremely bloody. It was draining. My doctor also prescribed Ibuprofen and Tylenol with Codeine though, so I was able to stay ahead of the pain and keep it managed… it was like bad menstrual cramps with a very painful contraction thrown in here and there.
For a week or so after the surgery, I had to sleep on a bath towel and set alarms throughout the night to wake up and change my pad. There was A LOT of blood. One day while at school the bleeding was so bad that I contemplated going to the ER; I was soaking a pad every half hour for about 3 hours straight, and passing huge clots. In between classes I went to the bathroom and had a big contraction while squatting over the toilet. I passed a clot, and then some tissue literally the size of the palm of my hand fell onto the bathroom stall floor – the pain from the contraction was so bad that I winced and subsequently missed the bowl. I had to clean blood off the floor and the side of the toilet bowl before heading back to class. Still haven’t gone back in that bathroom.
I was SO frustrated that I had to go through this after the D&C. It seemed unfair that the miscarriage was dragging on for this long. But, I have to imagine that had I not had the D&C, there wold have been much more blood and pain than I could handle going through the miscarriage naturally. Possibly even an infection. So ultimately the procedure was worth it for me as the physical pain was manageable; it was the emotional pain that was far worse.
How long after the procedure does it take to get your period? What was that like?
It took exactly 5 weeks and 4 days from the day of the D&C for me to get my first period. Textbook is anywhere from 4-6 weeks, but of course that varies from woman to woman. If you go longer than 7 weeks I’d call your doctor; not because it means there is something wrong…but just for your sanity. That first period was bittersweet. Bitter because it really put the nail in the coffin for me (no pun intended). I hadn’t had a period since November and my first period post-miscarriage was in March, so reality really set in that this baby was gone and I was no longer pregnant. It sucked. But the “sweet” aspect was that I felt like my body was finally getting back to normal. Having a period was a good thing! Even though it kicked my butt and hit me like a ton of bricks, it meant things were functioning the way they were supposed to in there and I could finally move forward physically with recovery. 🙂
All in all, the D&C was an effective way to complete my miscarriage when my body wouldn’t do it on it’s own. If you have any questions about my experience with the procedure feel free to comment below or shoot me an email!
How was your experience with D&C? Did you have to help nurse your partner back to health after the surgery? Are you a little less nervous about your upcoming procedure after reading this? Let me know! 🙂