Expert Advice

Your Protective Mucus Plug

Protection is the name of the game during pregnancy, and your body loves to do this. Your body protects baby from impact by making it float in a sac of fluid; it protects mom by lessening symptoms of chronic diseases like arthritis[1], psoriasis[2], and multiple sclerosis[3]. But the most fundamental barrier to one of pregnancy’s most common threats – infection – is your wonderful mucus plug.

Early in pregnancy, cervical mucus begins to collect until it has completely filled the cervix. The highly protective cervical plug is composed of special cells acting as a gatekeeper and inhibiting viruses and bacteria from growing.

Losing your mucus plug often indicates your birth plan and hospital bag checklist should be ready, because labor is something to plan for even though it could be days, or even as much as a couple of weeks, away. Your mucus plug is constantly regenerating, so even if it comes out before labor begins, baby remains safe inside.

 

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NOT ALL PREGNANT WOMEN LOSE THEIR MUCUS PLUGS ALL AT ONCE.

When your cervix begins to soften and shorten in preparation for labor, your mucus plug is no longer big enough to fill the opening. Some women’s plugs come out gradually over days or weeks. For some, it comes out all at once.

The variable time frame between mucus plug loss and onset of labor is highly individual. It’s definitely not something you can write into your birth plan!

If the plug release is gradual, it can be completely missed because late pregnancy creates extra vaginal discharge. It’s often unnoticed unless you just happen to see it when you go to the bathroom.

Even if they see it, many women think the thicker strand or clumps is just more vaginal mucus and easily miss recognizing this sign saying it might be time to finalize your birth plans.

Have you heard the term, “bloody show”? It’s often used to refer to the mucus plug, because the show and the plug loss usually occur together. They are, technically, different things. The mucus plug is composed of just mucus and the bloody show is the blood released from the cervix as it begins to soften and shorten[4].

If the plug comes out in one lump, some cervical capillaries break as it releases. Brown or dull red blood from these capillaries mix with the mucus plug. It’s a good sign in late pregnancy that your cervix is changing in preparation for labor.

Unless you have bright red blood accompanying your bloody show, there’s nothing to worry about. But if you continue to bleed, your care provider needs to know.

If this is your first baby, you probably have some waiting time before labor begins. Lucky you – you still have time to make those last minute birth plans. If you’ve previously given birth, losing your mucus plug could indicate that labor will begin relatively soon[5].

Your mucus plug has a mind of its own. Though your preference may be to see it, it’s one of the first birth mysteries to accept as out of your control. If you’re lucky enough to know your cervix has changed and your protective plug is gone, you have a sign to finish up packing your hospital bag, refining your birth plan, and making arrangements for older kids, house, pets, and relatives.

 

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16864922
[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15897382
[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25278125
[4] http://www.midwiferygroup.ca/downloads/third/What%20is%20your%20mucus%20plug%20and%20what%20is%20its%20function.pdf
[5] http://www.babycentre.co.uk/x25006041/how-long-after-the-mucus-plug-comes-out-does-labour-start – ixzz3leFDsbKE

 

To learn more about pregnancy tips, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.

This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner.  These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.

 

Published: December 3, 2015 | Reviewed by: Kim Walls, Natural Products Expert, Elizabeth Bachner, LM, CPM, L.Ac., Midwife | Last reviewed: December, 2015

 

Kim WallsYour Protective Mucus Plug

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