What is a mucus plug?
The 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 your baby. Think of it as a barrier between your vagina and your uterus where your baby is. You will lose this plug as your cervix begins to dilate (open) and efface (soften and thin) in preparation for labor.
Why do pregnant women lose their 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. This is considered losing your mucus plug.
When do you lose your mucus plug?
Most people don't lose their mucus plug until after 37 weeks of pregnancy. In some cases, losing the mucus plug happens days or weeks before your baby’s due date. Some people don't lose it until they're in labor. If you lose your mucus plug sooner than 37 weeks of pregnancy, contact your healthcare provider as a precaution.
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 if you notice heavy bleeding during pregnancy.
How is mucus plug discharge different than regular discharge?
Increased vaginal discharge is normal in pregnancy. Vaginal discharge is usually thin and light yellow or white in color. Discharge from the mucus plug is thicker, more jelly-like and there is more of it. It can also be tinged with red, brown or pink blood.
What is the difference between a mucus plug and a bloody show?
They are 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 is a collection of mucus. A bloody show is 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.
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 there is not an exact time for how soon after other labor symptoms will start. In some cases, you may already be in labor when you lose your mucus plug.
How long after losing your mucus plug will labor start?
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.
What are some signs that I lost my mucus plug?
The most noticeable sign is seeing mucus in your underwear or on toilet paper. Not all people know when they lose their mucus plug. This is because it comes out slowly over time instead of all at once.
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 into your vagina. It is getting ready for the baby to pass through.
- Sex: It's usually not harmful to have sex during pregnancy. In the last weeks of pregnancy, sexual intercourse can loosen the mucus plug. This is OK if you’re more than 37 weeks pregnant. Losing the mucus plug too soon may carry some risks.
- 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 have 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 over the course of a few days. You may feel these in your abdomen or lower back.
- Pelvic pressure: As your baby drops lower into the 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 baby’s bag of water (amniotic sac) 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.
What happens if you lose your mucus plug too early?
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 complication.
Care and Treatment
What happens after I lose my mucus plug?
Take note of what your mucus plug looks like — color, size and consistency. This can help your healthcare provider determine if it was your mucus plug. If you are 37 weeks into pregnancy and feel no labor symptoms, your healthcare provider may have no concerns. If you are less than 37 weeks pregnant or having contractions, your healthcare provider may want to evaluate you.
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 to a certain degree and not lose the mucus plug, but it will come out eventually. All pregnant people will have a mucus plug protecting the uterus from bacteria. It will always fall out before the baby is delivered.
Will 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.
When to Call the Doctor
Should I call the doctor when I lose my mucus plug?
If you are 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.
A note from the Cleveland Clinic
Discussing the signs of labor with your healthcare provider can be helpful and comforting during the last weeks of pregnancy. It's important to talk to your care team if you have questions about any of your symptoms.
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