Mucus Plug and Bloody Show in Pregnancy

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Passing the cervical mucus plug during pregnancy could mean labor is on the way though if it happens prior to 37 weeks it could be the first sign of impending premature birth.  

If you are not pregnant then seeing a mucus plug may be the very first pregnancy sign and symptom. Doing a pregnancy test may help you determine whether you are pregnant or not.

What is a mucus plug?

The mucus plug is inside the cervix, the lower part of the uterus, and it forms during pregnancy soon after the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. The plug blocks the opening of the cervix until shortly before labor and birth. As the body prepares for labor, the cervix opens and it pases or it shrinks away and falls out of the cervical opening. It has antimicrobrial properties, which means it protects against infections.

From early pregnancy, the mucus plug will form inside the cervical canal, as a barrier that could help protect the baby. Consequently, many women notice in early pregnancy an increase in vaginal discharge which may or may not be cervical mucus as and early pregnancy sign and symptom. 

This discharge may be clear, slightly pink or blood tinged in color. It may be stringy mucus or sticky discharge and many women may not even notice it's loss because there is already an increase in vaginal discharge during pregnancy.

If you have missed a menstrual period, if you have not experienced your usual menstrual bleeding, and you observe a mucus plug and/or an increase in vaginal discharge, you may want to do a pregnancy test and find out if you are pregnant or not.

What does a mucus plug look like?

The mucus plug looks like a piece of clear or reddish jelly. To some women it can even resemble a jellyfish. Basically, the size of mucus plug is rather small, 4-5 cm long (when in the uterine cervix) or about two tablespoons (when it comes out). In fact, the discharge can be even smaller in size since it can come out in parts. A mucus plug may be clear, slightly pink or blood tinged in color. It may be stringy mucus or sticky discharge and many women may not even notice it's loss because there is already an increase in vaginal discharge during pregnancy.

There is no need to contact your health care provider immediately if you pass the mucus plug under the following cicumstances:

  • You are close to your due date, after 37 weeks of the pregnancy
  • The mucus seems normal in color
  • You have no other symptoms
  • You don't think your water has broken
  • You may just want to let them know at your next visit.

pregnancy labor diagnosis and pain

When to call your doctor immediately if you pass a mucus plug:

  • You are less than 37 weeks pregnant
  • Your discharge suddenly becomes bright red
  • The amount is more than an ounce (about two tablespoons).
  • There is bright red bleeding
  • You have severe pain or cramps
  • You think your water bag has broken
  • There are less fetal movements
  • There are certain complications associated with these symptoms, and your doctor should be aware of them.

When do you lose your mucus plug?

Passing of the mucus plug or bloody show often happens several weeks prior to the due date and if you observe bloody show more than 3-4 weeks before the due date, you should let your doctor know because it could be a sign of impending preterm birth. When the cervix dilates in preparation for labor, the cervical mucus plug is passed due to the dilation of the cervix, and as it loosens and washes out of the body. Consequently, bloody show (blood-tinged mucus and/or a small amount of blood) can result. 

Causes of Bloody Show

Bloody show is often caused by the loosening or loss of the cervical mucus plug which is located inside the cervix and ensures the fetus is protected from external bacteria. When the body is ready to give birth, the plug will loosen and wash out of the body. There can be some bloody show associated with this action. The blood is not coming from the uterus but from the vessels holding the plug in place. These vessels rupture in order for the plug to pass. Bloody show is normal so do not worry.

When Should I See My Doctor?

Bloody show is often associated with labor and thus if it occurs, the pregnancy should be very near to the estimated due date. Labor can take two to three days or more to start, so an immediate trip to the doctor is not often needed. If the bloody show occurs earlier in the pregnancy, or if you see obvious bleeding, you should immediately contactyour doctor obstetrician.

early labor signs symptoms

What Will the mucus plug Look Like?

The mucus plug doesn’t look much different from normal pregnancy discharge. It may appear as a glob of mucus on your panties with a tint of blood. In some cases, it falls out during urination or a bowel movement and is never seen at all.

Do I Need to Rush to the Hospital When the Mucus Plug Passes?

No, you do not have to rush to the hospital if the mucus plug passes unless there are other symptoms associated with the passing. Cramping and bleeding could be signs of a medical problem, so immediate medical attention is then required. It can take more than a week for labor to start after it passes.

Will I always See the Mucus Plug Pass?

Not all women see the mucus plug. Sometimes it will pass out of the body during a normal bathroom break or be passed in small bits with other pregnancy discharge. Often, the obstetrician is the one to inform the pregnant woman that it has passed during a cervical check for dilation.

How Long Will it Take For Labor to Begin After the Mucus Plug Passes?

Labor does not typically start as soon as the mucus plug passes. The cervix will gradually open and for some women that takes weeks. In other cases, it starts labor and the cervix dilates faster. The body will start labor when it is good and ready.

When the Mucus Plug Falls Out is it Painful?

There is usually no pain associated with the passing of the mucus plug. Women often notice extra discharge and may be concerned about the tint of blood, but pain is not often reported.

Here is what some women reported about their mucus plug

  • "I went into labor and never saw a mucus plug"
  • "My water broke first and there was never a mucus plug"
  • "When my doctor examined me, the mucus plug was on her gloves"
  • "My mucus plug passed at 37 weeks and I did not go into labor for another 4 week""My mucus plug look like jellyfish, a litle white and yellow"
  • "I went into labor the same night as I passed the mucus plug"
  • "My labor started 4 days after I passed my mucus plug"