Pregnancy is often accompanied by increased vaginal secretions. One secretion to be aware of is the mucus plug. Simply put, a mucus plug is a protective collection of mucus that seals the cervix during pregnancy. During the later stages of pregnancy, the mucus plug usually comes out via the vagina and might be tinged with traces of blood (keep this kind of discharge in mind when packing your hospital bag here, for more information, see our guide).
This article will explore everything you need to know about the mucus plug so you know what to do when you notice it.
Some of the aspects that we will cover includes its significance in the pregnancy journey, when does one lose it, what to do when you finally lose it, and so on. So, let’s get started.
The Role of Mucus Plug in Pregnancy
The mucus plug acts as a barrier between the cervix and the vagina. Its function is to prevent unwanted bacteria and other harmful substances from entering the womb, thus protecting you and your baby against infection.
Should You Be Worried if Your Mucus Plug Is Blood Tinged?
It’s common to see some traces of blood in your mucus plug, so you shouldn’t be worried. As the baby grows in the uterus, the cervical canal and other neighboring organs have to expand to accommodate the baby. This expansion can cause some of the blood vessels in the area to rupture leading to the presence of blood in the mucus plug.
However, if you’re experiencing heavy bleeding and notice a discharge of bright red blood, you should see your healthcare provider immediately so they can determine the underlying cause.
When Do You Lose the Cervical Mucus Plug?
Many pregnant women lose their mucus plug when the cervix dilates and softens and it is pushed out through the vagina, where it comes out as a jelly-like fluid.
It’s typical to lose your mucus plug any time after 37 weeks and losing your it is a clear indication that your labor is near.. However, some women may lose it earlier (more on this later).
While it is a common early labor sign, it doesn’t automatically mean that you’re due. Some pregnant women might lose their mucus plug a few hours before active labor begins, and others might lose theirs a few weeks before active labor starts.
If you lose your mucus plug a few days before your due date, you might start experiencing other labor symptoms such as:
- Pelvic pressure
- Rapturing of the amniotic sac (water breaking)
- Regular contractions
- Cramping in the lower abdomen and the back (to help relieve this pain, consider getting a pregnancy pillow for better sleep quality and support)
The above are clear signs of active labor. Therefore, one should consult their healthcare provider immediately so they can monitor the progression of their labor and ensure a safe delivery.
How Do You Identify a Mucus Plug?
Fortunately, the mucus plug has a relatively distinctive look which makes it very easy to differentiate it from normal vaginal discharge. Here are some common characteristics to look out for if you’re trying to identify a mucus plug:
- Its texture is jelly like, sticky and stringy
- It measures approximately two inches in volume
- It doesn’t have a strong smell (relatively odorless)
- It’s clear but it might be blood tinged causing it to have a light yellow, pink, red or brown color
If you’re still unable to tell if the vaginal discharge you’re having is the mucus plug, then call your doctor and ask for clarification.
Just be prepared to describe exactly how the discharge looks like so they can have a clear mental picture. Alternatively, you might collect the discharge on some toilet paper, take a picture of it, and let your healthcare provider help you determine if it’s just typical vaginal discharge or your mucus plug.
What’s the Difference Between Mucus Plug and Bloody Show?
Both bloody show and mucus plug are common symptoms of late pregnancy. These two also occur when the cervix begins to soften and dilate in preparation for labor. What distinguishes the mucus plug from bloody show is that the latter is simply a slight discharge of blood which is sometimes mixed with mucus.
The blood results from the rupturing of blood vessels as a result of the dilation of the cervix. The amount of blood varies from one woman to another, but it’s typically a small amount so it shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
Again, if you’re having trouble differentiating these two, consult with your healthcare provider for further clarification.
How Do I Tell Normal Vaginal Discharge From a Mucus Plug Discharge
Vaginal discharge is pretty common during pregnancy. It is often thin in texture and can have a light yellow or white color. Mucus plug discharge on the other hand, is very thick in texture, clear in color and is often tinged with blood. Check above to see other distinctive characteristics of the mucus plug.
What to Do if You Lose It Earlier Than 37 Weeks
Loosing your mucus plug earlier than 37 weeks into your pregnancy may be a sign of a cervical change, preterm labor or other possible pregnancy complications. You should consult your doctor immediately so they can advise you on what to do.
Often, it’s recommended that you be aware of labor symptoms such as contractions. Other signs that may be accompanied with losing your mucus plug earlier than 37 weeks include:
- Sudden gush of a liquid out of the vagina
- Contractions that may be accompanied by heavy bleeding
- Pain in the abdominal area
What Might Cause Someone to Lose Their It Earlier Than 37 Weeks?
Some common reasons why you might lose your mucus plug earlier than 37 weeks include:
- Softening and Opening of the Cervix – This is what causes most pregnant women to lose their mucus plug.
- Sexual Activity – While having sexual activity during pregnancy isn’t prohibited, it may cause the cervical canal to dilate forcing the mucus plug to come out earlier than expected and losing it early may put you and the baby at a higher risk of infection
- Cervical Exam – It’s common for your healthcare providers to check your cervix if you go in for a prenatal exam. This exam might tamper with your cervix causing it to soften and dilate causing you to lose your mucus plug.
What Should You Do When You Finally Lose Your Mucus Plug?
Losing your mucus plug comes with risks because it means there’s no protective barrier between the vagina and the cervical canal.
Some doctors might recommend you avoid sexual intercourse, using a tampon or a panty liner, among other activities such as swimming and douching. This is to ensure that you protect yourself and your baby against bacteria and infections.
What Are the Side Effects of Losing the Mucus Plug?
Fortunately, losing your mucus plug isn’t accompanied by any serious side effects. It is a normal part of the pregnancy journey and usually signals that the cervical carnal has started softening and thinning in preparation for labor.
The mucus plug is an important part of pregnancy and it prevents bacteria from entering the uterus, potentially harming your baby. Many women notice it during late pregnancy and it’s totally normal so you shouldn’t be shocked when you see it.
If you’re in the later stages of pregnancy you should be vigilant about any unusual symptoms that you experience.
It is important to talk to your doctor about these common symptoms because they could mean that labor may start some time soon. Doing so will give you peace of mind and make the whole pregnancy journey a bit less worrisome.