Bloody Show – 8 Facts You Need To Know

Bloody Show - 8 Facts You Need To Know

Most women hope to see a sign of impending labour but are freaked out by the idea of bloody show.

Seeing blood during pregnancy is a little frightening.

Bloody Show – 8 Facts You Need To Know

Is it actually a sign of labour? Or is this what’s known as losing your mucous plug?

Do you need to get to the hospital pronto? 

Here are 8 facts you need to know about bloody show.

#1: What Is Bloody Show?

You might’ve heard the term ‘bloody show’ but not actually know what it means.

It’s the term used for bleeding at the end of pregnancy.

You might’ve heard the terms ‘bloody show’ and ‘mucous plug’ as though they’re the same thing – but they’re not.

  • Losing your mucous plug can happen over time. The mucous plug can also regenerate itself, so seeing some mucus isn’t necessarily a sign labour is imminent. The mucous plug might begin to come away because the cervix is softening and thinning. You might see some blood in the mucus, which gives it a pink tinge, but there might also be no blood.
  • Bloody show happens because the cervix is dilating. This commonly happens after losing the mucous plug. But labour can begin without any bloody show.

You can read more in Mucus Plug (The Show) During Pregnancy – FAQs.

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#2: What Causes Bloody Show?

At the end of pregnancy, your cervix is going through some big changes.

This is in preparation for your baby’s birth.

The cervix is actually part of the uterus. During most of your pregnancy, your cervix is closed and hard.

This keeps the mucous plug in place, preventing bacteria from reaching your baby.

In the last month before birth, your cervix begins to soften and thin. This process is called ripening and usually takes place without you being aware of it.

As the cervix ripens, it becomes more pliable and will shorten, or efface.

These changes allow the cervix eventually to dilate or open.

When the cervix begins to dilate, small capillaries are burst, which causes some bleeding.

#3: What Does Bloody Show Look Like?

How bloody show looks can depend on a number of things.

Most often the colour is bright red, but it can range from brown to pink.

If your mucous plug has already come out, the bloody show might look like spotting or light bleeding.

Otherwise, a bloody show can be mixed with the mucous plug and appear as blood tinged discharge.

#4: Bloody Show During Pregnancy

In your last weeks of pregnancy, you might notice some very light spotting or bleeding.

This is usually not a cause for concern, but you should discuss it with your care provider, especially if you feel unwell or have cramping, or if the blood loss is significant. 

Bleeding earlier than 37 weeks can indicate premature labour. Always seek the advice of your care provider if you have any concerns about bleeding during pregnancy.

#5: Is Bloody Show A Sign Of Labour?

Although bloody show is a common enough sign labour is beginning, it can happen in other circumstances.

If your care provider performs a cervical check late in pregnancy, this can irritate the cervix and cause some bleeding.

Some care providers do cervical checks as a matter of routine during prenatal appointments in the last month.

You can read more about the necessity of this in Pelvic Exam During Pregnancy – Is It Really Necessary?.

You are also likely to experience bloody show following a ‘stretch and sweep’. This is when your care provider stretches the cervix and sweeps your membranes.

Some care providers do stretch and sweeps in the weeks leading up to your due date, even without your consent.

You should always be informed about this procedure before it is performed, as there are some risks involved.

Find out more in Membrane Sweep – 5 Things To Know Before Having One.

#6: How Long After Bloody Show Before You Go into Labour?

Since bloody show happens when your cervix is starting to dilate, it means your body is preparing for labour.

If you’re close to your due date and see bloody show, it’s a positive sign labour is on its way.

Every woman’s experience of labour starting is different. There is no guarantee labour will begin in the next 24 hours. It could still be several days in the future.

Some women don’t lose their mucous plug, or see bloody show, until they are well into active labour.

First time mamas are more likely to see bloody show before labour begins, but this can happen a few days beforehand.

Women who have given birth before often don’t see any bloody show until their cervix is dilating; they would expect birth in the next 24 hours.

Often care providers want to check to see whether your cervix is dilating. Unless there is a medical reason for being concerned, you can choose to not have cervical checks during labour.

Read more in Are Cervical Checks During Labour Necessary?.

#7: Bloody Show During Labor

In the first stage of labour, contractions act on the cervix to open or dilate it. As contractions increase in frequency and intensity, the cervix dilates more.

During transition, which is the final phase of active labour, you might notice an increase in bloody show.

This is because the cervix dilates the final few centimetres in a short period of time.

This is a sign you are very close to giving birth to your baby.

#8: What Do I Do About Bloody Show?

If you’re not 37 weeks yet, and you notice light spotting or bleeding, seek advice from your care provider. It’s possible you’re going into labour prematurely.

If you’re close to your due date, and are already past 37 weeks, then bloody show is simply a sign your body is preparing to give birth.

Look for contractions, which you might experience as a low backache or even menstrual-like cramps.

Many women wonder whether they should head off to hospital if they see bloody show.

This isn’t necessary, unless you’re feeling unwell, you are less than 37 weeks pregnant or you have any concerns at all about your baby.

It could be some time before contractions become established and it’s usually recommended you stay at home when in early labour.

It’s a good sign labour is in the near future, though, so get everything prepared.

While you’re waiting, read Early Labour – 8 Tips For A Low Stress Early Labour At Home to give you a head start on cruising early labour at home.

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Sam McCulloch Dip CBEd CONTRIBUTOR

Sam McCulloch enjoyed talking so much about birth she decided to become a birth educator and doula, supporting parents in making informed choices about their birth experience. In her spare time she writes novels. She is mother to three beautiful little humans.


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