This Is What It's Really Like To Recover From A D&C

by Stephanie Chan
Originally Published: 
recovery from d&c
RossHelen / Getty

Trigger warning: miscarriage

My Internet search history is bonkers this week. A few months ago, we got pregnant. Cue wild amounts of elation because while we hadn’t been on the TTC journey as long as some couples, we’d felt like we’d been on it long enough. Everyone feels like that though, it’s probably one of the only things we all have in common.

Like far too many couples, our pregnancy wouldn’t make it to twelve weeks. At the first ultrasound, the doctor held my hand and told me that the lack of heartbeat and fetal growth meant that at nine weeks the pregnancy wasn’t viable and our child was gone. After a lot of discussion and weighing of risks, we agreed to a dilation and curettage (or D&C) procedure a few weeks later. The doctor called it a “missed miscarriage.”

I did my research before the procedure and made sure my husband had a notepad of questions for the surgeon the day we checked into the hospital. What I didn’t know how to ask for were all the practical tips for the recovery. Translating the discharge instructions felt like cramming for a medical jargon mid-term. In an effort to aid my TTC siblings who may find themselves in a similar boat, let me try and help you translate some of these instructions.

Doctor: “You shouldn’t make any big decisions for 24 hours after the procedure as you may feel ‘a bit out of it.'”

Translation: You’re going to feel like you’re losing your mind. Apparently I “woke up” multiple times after the surgery and interacted with folks, but I only remember the last one. Recovering memories I didn’t know I’d forgotten is more than mildly unsettling and the concept of “missing time” was the first of many strange questions I asked the Internet this week.

Doctor: “Here are some painkillers to take if you need them.”

Translation: You’re going to need these. Don’t try to be a hero, just take them when you need them. If you have a partner you trust with this kind of thing, give them the drugs and let them make the call on if you should take them. I did this, because I’m incredibly stubborn and hate taking pills, and it’s probably one of my better health decisions. Didn’t stop me from searching possible drug interactions and obscure side effects to load up my nightmares fodder though. Also do I need to say take ALL of your antibiotics? You should definitely do that too.

Doctor: “You’re going to bleed a bit afterwards, that’s normal but call us if it’s heavy because you might be hemorrhaging.”

Translation: Bleeding for up to 6 weeks is normal and you won’t feel completely clean that entire time. Oh, and the bleeding might not start until a week after the surgery just when you think you’re in the clear. Also, if you aren’t used to wearing pads, get used to them because you don’t have a choice. They make flushable feminine wipes now, stock up as they’re your only joy once your skin gets irritated from the pad constantly rubbing against an already sensitive area. On a positive note, I learned new ways to get blood out of things so thanks for that, Internet.

Doctor: “Your body may still think it’s pregnant for a few weeks and it may take a while for your hormones to adjust.”

Translation: You’re going to experience your own kind of postpartum recovery. This will be complete with mood swings, lack of energy, cramps as your uterus contracts, and weird bowel movements. No amount of searching or re-phrasing my question has led me to an answer of how long this stage lasts. Depending on what your HCG — or the pregnancy hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotropin — levels were before the procedure, you might experienced bouts of of morning sickness. These should subside dramatically, however.

Doctor: “You will need to wait and recover a bit before you can try to get pregnant again.”

Translation: You need to wait THREE FREAKING MONTHS minimum. (Was not ready for that one).

Overall, this is not the “quick way to get it over with” that I read about before the procedure. It’s a long and drawn out thing that has its own physical recovery just like any other miscarriage.

So be nice to yourself afterwards; don’t expect to bounce back the next day, and perhaps keep a list of what you find helpful. Just in case you or a friend end up here again. Gift baskets of practical stuff is usually a nicer gesture than simply avoiding someone because you don’t know what to say. None of us really ever know what to say in these cases.

Hope these translations are helpful. Hang in there.

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