In late pregnancy, your mucus plug – commonly called the bloody show or cervical plug – can be an indicator of impending labor. When your mucus plug comes out earlier in pregnancy, it may not – like at term – indicate the time is ripe to finish your birth plan. Sometimes when your mucus plug comes out early, your birth professionals will determine that your pregnancy is higher risk than it was before if it accompanies pain and bleeding.
If you haven’t read our other post explaining what a mucus plug is, here’s the skinny: it’s cervical mucus that has the consistency of egg whites that collected and thickened inside your cervix in early pregnancy to prevent bacteria from your vagina entering into your sterile womb.
Mucus plugs are designed to stay until near term. When your cervix softens and shortens because of hormonal changes that start or precede labor, your cervix no longer holds the mucous plug tightly, so it comes out. Maybe it’s in one piece, maybe it’s in pieces. Either way, when labor is on the horizon, hormones change, your cervix opens up, and the plug releases.
But what if you’re not more than 37 weeks pregnant? There are other situations that can make your mucus plug release much earlier in pregnancy. While some women have lost their mucus plug as early as 12 weeks this is not a common occurrence and many times these women have gone on to have full term pregnancies.
If you are starting to dilate on your own, sometimes having a cervical exam can dislodge your mucus plug. Maybe the whole thing comes out, maybe only a part does. Sometimes losing your plug is an indication your cervix is thinning and opening up, but it doesn’t mean labor is anywhere close. If labor doesn’t begin, your mucus plug can regenerate to some degree and still provide antibacterial protection.
LET YOUR MIDWIFE OR DOCTOR KNOW
If your mucus plug comes out before 37 weeks, you should let your care provider know. There could be a bit of bloody show of dark red or brown blood that accompanies this gelatinous blob. But, there’s rarely cause for concern unless you continue to bleed, have bright red blood, and bleed more than 1-2 tablespoons (approximately 1 oz.).
Sometimes losing your mucus plug early indicates premature dilation of the cervix, which could indicate impending premature labor. Be sure to inform your care provider, who will most likely want to check you. With early detection, there are treatments that can stop your cervix from dilating and shortening in preparation for labor.
If you’ve had premature labor in the past, if your water breaks, or if you’re cramping after losing your mucus plug, definitely contact your doctor or midwife.
Losing your mucus plug can nudge you into thinking further about what plans you want to make for your birth, inspire you to finalize your hospital bag checklist, and get busy researching the birth preferences you’ll include in your birth plan.
To learn more about pregnancy, 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 | By SP Turgon, Certified Labor Doula | Reviewed by: Kim Walls, Natural Products Expert, Elizabeth Bachner, LM, CPM, L.Ac., Midwife | Last reviewed: December, 2015