If you’re pregnant, you’ve probably heard about the mucus plug, which is also known as ‘the bloody show’.
Most women are familiar with cervical mucus, which is a type of discharge occurring at different times during our menstrual cycle.
At the time of ovulation, the mucus changes and acts as a protective path for sperm to travel safely.
You might notice an increase in cervical mucus around the time of your ovulation, due to surging levels of oestrogen.
Cervical mucus plays an important role during pregnancy as well, forming the all-important mucus plug.
What Is A Mucus Plug?
During pregnancy, the cervix secretes thick mucus to protect your uterus and reproductive organs from invading bacteria and other pathogens.
The plug adds an extra layer of protection for your baby.
Towards the end of your pregnancy, your cervix begins to ripen and soften, preparing for labour.
This can happen weeks or hours before labour begins, and there is no way of knowing how long this will process take.
As the cervix begins to change, some of the mucus plug may come away.
Some women don’t notice their plug coming away, due to increased cervical mucus occurring during pregnancy.
This is known as leucorrhea, and is a whitish coloured vaginal discharge women normally see during pregnancy.
What Does A Mucus Plug Look Like?
The consistency and colours of a mucus plug varies.
It might be like a jelly-like, stringy or even a sticky discharge.
You might have a clear mucus plug, or one that’s white, yellow or a creamy colour.
The mucus plug can be tinged with pink, red or even brown.
This is due to small blood vessels breaking when the cervix begins to thin and dilate.
Blood can get caught in the mucus plug – this is why it’s also known as ‘bloody show’.
If you notice any green in your mucus plug, let your care provider know, so they can make sure it’s not meconium (baby’s first poo).
Here is an example of what a mucus plug might look like, from doula Aimee Sing:
Can You Gradually Lose Your Mucus Plug?
Many women discover their mucus plug after wiping themselves with toilet paper.
When the plug begins to come away, it can be in a continuous discharge or it can actually resemble a plug.
Not all women will see the mucus plug before they are well into labour.
If you’re unsure if the discharge is your mucus plug, pop on a sanitary pad and keep and eye on the amount and colour.
You can show the pad to your care provider if you’re unsure or have concerns.
Don’t worry – they’ve seen all kinds of body fluids many times before, and won’t mind.
What Happens After You Lose Your Mucus Plug?
If the show is quite heavy and you’ve had good contractions, your midwives may be quite excited.
They’ll be excited because this means things are moving along well, and your cervix is dilating.
They can reassure you of this without having to perform a vaginal examination.
Do I Need To Call My Care Provider?
If your mucus plug appears normal in colour, there’s no need to contact your care provider.
You can let them know at your next check up or if you go into labour.
If you experience any bright red discharge, it’s best to let your care provider know, so they can make an assessment if necessary.
Any green-yellow should also be reported, because if baby’s first poo is present, it’ll need to be investigated, in case your baby isn’t happy.
How Long After Losing Your Mucus Plug Do You Go Into Labour?
There is no exact science as to when labour will begin – each woman is different and her experience of labour can change every time she has a baby.
The mucus plug is only one of a number of signs that labour is ahead of you.
A member poll in the BellyBelly forums showed:
- 45% of women lost their mucus plug 1-2 weeks before labour started
- 34% saw their mucus plug 2 days before labour began
- 30% of women lost their mucus plug during labour
- Around 17.65% didn’t see theirs at all
It’s easy to feel very excited if you do see your show but try to avoid getting too excited and telling everyone immediately – it might still take some time before labour gets underway.
Dealing with frequent phone calls and unexpected visits from well meaning family and friends may get overwhelming and could even slow your labour down.
Early labour can take a while to establish, so if your mucus plug begins to come away and you aren’t yet experiencing contractions, try to relax and stay calm while you wait for things to progress.
Your body will conserve energy for the more active stage of labour later on if you don’t try and get things moving too early.
Go about your day as usual and feel confident things are happening and labour is not too far away!
Recommended Reading: 13 Natural Pain Relief Options For Labour.