Dilation and Evacuation (D&E)

Surgery Overview

Dilation and evacuation (D&E) is done in the second 12 weeks (second trimester) of pregnancy. It usually includes a combination of vacuum aspiration and the use of surgical tools (such as forceps).

An ultrasound is done before a D&E to find out the size of the uterus and the number of weeks of the pregnancy.

D&E usually takes less than 30 minutes. It can be done in a hospital but does not require an overnight stay. It can also be done at a clinic where doctors are specially trained to perform abortion.

The uterine tissue removed during the D&E is examined to make sure that all of the tissue was removed and the procedure is complete.

Doctors may use ultrasound during the D&E to confirm that all of the tissue has been removed and the pregnancy has ended.

What To Expect

Dilation and evacuation (D&E) is a surgical procedure. A normal recovery includes:

  • Irregular bleeding or spotting for the first 2 weeks. Use sanitary pads until you stop bleeding. Using pads makes it easier to monitor your bleeding.
  • Cramps similar to menstrual cramps. These may last from several hours to a few days, as the uterus shrinks back to its nonpregnant size.

After the procedure

  • Rest quietly that day. You can do normal activities the following day, based on how you feel.
  • Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil) can help relieve cramping pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Medicines may be given to help the uterus contract and return to its prepregnancy size.
  • Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex.
  • If you don't want to get pregnant, use birth control when you start having sex again.

Why It Is Done

Dilation and evacuation (D&E) is one of the methods available for a second-trimester abortion.

  • A D&E is sometimes offered to women diagnosed in the second trimester with a fetus that has severe medical problems or abnormalities.
  • A woman may not realize that she is pregnant until the second trimester. When this happens, a D&E may be necessary for abortion.
  • A woman who doesn't have access to an abortion earlier in her pregnancy may need to have a D&E.

Dilation and evacuation may also be used to remove tissue that remains after a miscarriage.

How Well It Works

Dilation and evacuation is a safe and effective method for an abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy. D&E may also be used to remove tissue that remains after a miscarriage.

Risks

The risk of problems from dilation and evacuation (D&E) is rare. But some problems may include:

  • Tissue remaining in the uterus (retained products of conception).
  • Injury to the cervix.
  • A hole in the wall of the uterus (uterine perforation).
  • Moderate to severe vaginal bleeding.
  • Infection.

Risks are higher for surgical abortions done in the second trimester of pregnancy than for those done in the first trimester.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.