How is a dilation and curettage (D&C) performed?

Your gynecologist or obstetrician will usually begin a D&C by giving you medication to relax or partially sedate you. The procedure is not usually performed under full anesthesia, but in rare circumstances or at your request it may be done. The procedure will usually cause cramping similar to menstrual cramps. You may be given pain medication to deal with these cramps.

Your doctor may begin to dilate your cervix by using something called a laminaria stick before surgery. This is a thin rod that is inserted into the cervix and left in place for several hours. The rod absorbs fluids from the cervix, causing it to open, or dilate, and provide access to your uterus. Your doctor may also give you medications to help soften and numb your cervix.

Much like a gynecological exam, a D&C is performed with your back on a table and your feet in stirrups. A speculum will be inserted into your vagina. Your cervix will be held in place with a clamp.

Once your cervix is sufficiently dilated – about one-half inch in diameter – your doctor will use a suction device or a scraping instrument, called a curette, to clean out tissue from the uterus.

In most cases, your doctor will a take sample of the tissue for laboratory analysis following the procedure.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/09/2014.


  • Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC. Dilation and Curettage. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC, editors. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2011:chap 141, 957-961.
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Dilation and Curettage (D&C) Accessed 4/9/2014.
  • Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. Dilation and Curettage (D&C) Accessed 4/5/2014.

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