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Pregnant woman mucus plug

FAQ: The Mucus Plug

August 07, 2018
3 min read

As labor nears, you might notice a clear, pink, or even bloody vaginal discharge that looks like mucus. This may be the mucus plug, which is sometimes called the bloody show or simply the show. Read on to learn more about what the mucus plug is, what it looks like, and how long after losing the mucus plug labor may start. Even though this subject may seem unpleasant, having this kind of discharge is a normal part of a full-term pregnancy, and it's worth reading about so you feel more prepared if you see it.

What's in this article:

What Is the Mucus Plug and What Does It Look Like? Is There a Difference Between the Bloody Show and the Mucus Plug? Why Does It Come Out? When Do You Lose Your Mucus Plug? How Long After Losing the Mucus Plug Does Labor Start? FAQs at a Glance

What Is the Mucus Plug and What Does It Look Like?

During pregnancy, mucus accumulates in the cervix, forming a plug that stops bacteria from entering the uterus.

The discharge can be clear, pink, a little bloody, or brownish in color. The mucus can come out in one thick string or in smaller segments. You might notice it on the toilet paper after you wipe, or you may not see it or notice it at all. If you notice bleeding that’s heavy, like a menstrual period, contact your healthcare provider, as this may not be the mucus plug coming out, but something else that may require medical attention.

Is There a Difference Between the Bloody Show and the Mucus Plug?

The names mucus plug and bloody show are often used interchangeably. In some instances, a distinction is made between a mucus plug that is clear and mucus that is bloody or has streaks of blood in it, which may be called a bloody show instead. Whichever term you use, your healthcare provider will know what you mean; you could even describe what you see to be even more accurate.

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Why Does It Come Out?

The mucus plug comes loose and dislodges when the cervix starts to open (dilate) as labor nears. As the cervix dilates, the mucus is pushed out into the vagina. Seeing the mucus plug is a sign you are approaching labor, or it can be an early sign of labor itself. Read up on some of the other commons signs of labor, including your water breaking. If your pregnancy is already full term (if you are 38 to 42 weeks pregnant), then losing the mucus plug is a sign that labor is approaching. You might choose to contact your healthcare provider, who’ll be able to advise you on the next steps, or you can wait until you experience contractions starting or your water breaking. If your labor is not yet full term, then contact your healthcare provider right away, as it may be a sign of preterm labor.

When Do You Lose Your Mucus Plug?

The mucus plug can come loose several days or one or two weeks before labor starts, or even at the very onset of labor. If your pregnancy goes to full term, you will lose your mucus plug in the 9th month of pregnancy. If you notice what looks like the mucus plug before 37 weeks of pregnancy, contact your healthcare provider, because this may be a sign you are going into pre-term labor. Read up on the other signs of pre-term labor.

Usually, sometime after you lose the mucus plug, contractions will start. You might want to track them using this handy, printable contraction tracking chart. This will help you collect accurate information about your contractions that you can share with your healthcare provider. This downloadable chart, together with our information on how to time contractions, should make preparing for labor a bit easier.

How Long After Losing the Mucus Plug Does Labor Start?

Because the mucus plug can come out weeks before you go into labor, it’s not possible to tell exactly when labor will start. Contact your healthcare provider if you notice this kind of vaginal discharge. Your provider can confirm it and advise you on the next steps.

If the mucus plug has come loose, you might want to get your hospital bag ready for when it’s time to go.

If you have written a birth plan, now might be a good time to read over it, and pack it in your hospital bag, too.

FAQs at a Glance

Is losing the mucus plug a very early sign of labor?
Yes, it can be. You may notice it weeks or days before labor starts, or at the very onset of labor.

How can you tell if you are losing the mucus plug?
You might notice it when you wipe after using the toilet, or you may notice it on your underwear. Some women don’t notice it at all. If you’re in any doubt about any kind of vaginal discharge, contact your healthcare provider.

Can a mucus plug be clear and jelly like?
Yes. The mucus plug can look like a clear, jelly-like substance. Sometimes it can be pink or brownish, or have streaks of blood in it.

How big is the mucus plug?
It’s hard to say. Some women expel the mucus plug all at once, and for others, it comes out in smaller parts.

See all sources
All ressources

ACOG: How to Tell When Labor Begins

ACOG: Bleeding During Pregnancy

Cleveland Clinic: Labor & Delivery

Cleveland Clinic Document Third Trimester

Mayo Clinic: Bleeding during pregnancy

Mayo Clinic: Labor and delivery, postpartum care

March of Dimes: Signs of Labor

Book: Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month, Sixth Edition Paperback – January 1, 2016

by American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (Author)

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