Mucus Plug

A mucus plug is a collection of mucus that forms in the cervical canal in early pregnancy. It prevents bacteria or infection from entering your uterus and reaching the fetus. As your cervix prepares for labor, you’ll lose the mucus plug. This is a normal and common symptom in late pregnancy.


What mucus plug looks like in cervix while pregnant
Mucus plug inside the cervical canal during pregnancy.

What is a mucus plug?

Your mucus plug is a thick piece of mucus that blocks the opening of your cervix during pregnancy. It forms a seal to prevent bacteria and infection from getting into your uterus and reaching the fetus. You can think of it as a protective barrier between your vagina and your uterus. An increase in pregnancy hormones like progesterone form the mucus plug. You can only form this plug when you’re pregnant.

You’ll lose your mucus plug as your cervix begins to dilate (open) and efface (soften and thin) in preparation for labor and delivery.

Why do you lose your mucus plug?

As your body prepares for labor, your cervix begins to soften, thin and open. This causes the mucus plug to dislodge from your cervix. The mucus is pushed out into your vagina. You may see it in your underwear or on toilet paper. This is considered losing your mucus plug.


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What does mucus plug discharge look like?

The look, size and texture will vary. The mucus plug is usually:

  • Clear, off-white or slightly bloody (red, brown or pink) in color.
  • Stringy, sticky and jelly-like in texture.
  • 1 to 2 inches in length.
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons in volume.
  • Relatively odorless.

You may lose your mucus plug in one glob or you may lose it gradually over time and never notice it. A small amount of blood is common, but severe bleeding may be a sign of placental abruption, placenta previa or other pregnancy complications. Contact your healthcare provider any time that you notice heavy bleeding during pregnancy.

When do you lose your mucus plug?

Most people don’t lose their mucus plug until after 37 weeks of pregnancy. It can happen a few days or a few weeks before your due date. Some people don’t lose it until they’re in active labor. If you lose your mucus plug sooner than 37 weeks of pregnancy, contact your healthcare provider as a precaution.

Can you lose your mucus plug slowly?

Yes, you can lose it slowly or all at once.


How can you tell the difference between mucus plug and discharge?

An increase in vaginal discharge is normal in pregnancy. Vaginal discharge is usually thin and light yellow or white. Discharge from the mucus plug is thicker, more jelly-like and there’s more of it. It can also be tinged with red, brown or pink blood.

What does it mean when you lose your mucus plug?

Losing your mucus plug generally means your cervix has started to dilate, efface or both. It means labor is around the corner, but no one can predict the exact time labor will begin.


How long after losing your mucus plug do you go into labor?

The length of time between losing your mucus plug and going into labor can vary. In some cases, you may go into labor within hours or days, while other times, you may not go into labor for a few weeks.

How will I know if it’s my mucus plug?

The most noticeable sign is seeing mucus in your underwear or on toilet paper. It looks like the mucus that comes out of your throat when you have a cold as opposed to blood you may see during your menstrual period. Not all people know when they lose their mucus plug. This is because it comes out slowly over time instead of all at once.

Possible Causes

What causes your mucus plug to fall out?

There are a few things that cause you to lose your mucus plug:

  • Cervix softening and opening: As your cervix begins to efface (soften and thin) and dilate (open) in preparation for delivery, this can cause your mucus plug to come out. This happens so your baby can pass through during birth.
  • Sex: It’s usually not harmful to have sex during pregnancy. In the last weeks of pregnancy, sexual intercourse can loosen the mucus plug.
  • Cervical exam: During a prenatal appointment, your healthcare provider may check your cervix. The exam can stretch or irritate your cervix. This can make the mucus plug fall out.

If you suspect you’ve lost your mucus plug and are less than 37 weeks pregnant, you should contact your healthcare provider. They could be concerned and want to examine your cervix.

Is losing your mucus plug a sign of labor?

Losing the mucus plug can be one sign that labor is near. There are several other signs labor is coming. You should monitor yourself for these other signs:

  • Cramping: Period-like cramps that come and go for a few days. You may feel these in your abdomen or lower back.
  • Pelvic pressure: As the fetus drops lower into your pelvis, you may feel increased pressure. This is a term called lightening.
  • Contractions: This is a regular tightening of your uterus that gets stronger and more frequent.
  • Membranes rupture: Your water breaks. This is often one of the last signs of labor. You should contact your healthcare provider right away.

What are some side effects of losing your mucus plug?

There are no side effects from losing your mucus plug. It’s a normal part of pre-labor. Losing your mucus plug can be accompanied by other symptoms of labor like contractions and pelvic pressure.

What happens if you lose your mucus plug in early pregnancy?

If you suspect you lost your mucus plug before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider. This could be a sign of early labor or other pregnancy complications.

Care and Treatment

What happens after I lose my mucus plug?

Take note of what your mucus plug looks like — color, size and texture. This can help your healthcare provider determine if it was your mucus plug. If you’re 37 weeks into pregnancy and feel no labor symptoms, your healthcare provider may have no concerns. If you’re less than 37 weeks pregnant or having contractions, your healthcare provider may want to evaluate you.

What should I avoid after losing my mucus plug?

There typically isn’t anything you need to avoid if you lose your mucus plug, but this varies depending on your situation and how far along in pregnancy you are. For example, if you lose your mucus plug at 37 weeks and your water hasn’t broken, there isn’t anything you need to avoid. You should talk to your healthcare provider to be sure.

Can you go into labor without losing your mucus plug?

You can go into labor without losing your mucus plug. The timing between labor and mucus plug discharge can vary. Some people lose their mucus plug after other labor symptoms begin. In some cases, losing the mucus plug is the first symptom.

Is it possible to dilate and not lose your mucus plug?

You can dilate a few centimeters and not lose the mucus plug, but it’ll come out eventually. All pregnant people will have mucus plugs protecting their uteruses from bacteria. They’ll always fall out before the baby is delivered.

Can my mucus plug regenerate?

Yes, the mucus plug can regenerate in your cervix. It’s possible to lose parts of your mucus plug and then lose more later. This is because your body is constantly creating vaginal discharge and mucus during pregnancy.

Care at Cleveland Clinic

When To Call the Doctor

Should I call my provider when I lose my mucus plug?

If you’re unsure if your discharge is the mucus plug, you can contact your healthcare provider. Be prepared to describe the discharge. Losing the mucus plug is a normal progression of labor and usually not harmful.

If any of the following occur, you should contact your healthcare provider right away:

  • Loss of your mucus plug before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Heavy bleeding accompanied by pain or contractions.
  • Feeling a sudden gush of fluid from your vagina (your water breaking).

Additional Common Questions

What is the difference between a mucus plug and a bloody show?

They’re closely related but slightly different. Both occur late in pregnancy as your cervix dilates in preparation for labor. Mucus plug discharge is stringy and jelly-like. It’s a collection of mucus. A bloody show is a bloody discharge that can contain small traces of mucus. The bloody show is a result of blood vessels rupturing in your cervix as it expands.

How many centimeters dilated are you when you lose your mucus plug?

Your mucus plug typically comes out during early labor. This is the part of labor that consists of your cervix softening and opening, as well as mild contractions. Early labor lasts until you’re about 6 centimeters dilated. Your mucus plug can come out at any point in the dilation process.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Discussing the signs of labor with your healthcare provider can be helpful and comforting during the last weeks of pregnancy. Losing your mucus plug is a normal part of pregnancy, but it can feel weird when it happens. It’s usually not a reason to worry unless it happens four or more weeks before your due date. It’s important to talk to your healthcare team if you have questions about any pregnancy symptoms.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 02/08/2024.

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