Pregnant woman before losing mucus plug

FAQ: The Mucus Plug

June 14, 2019
3 min read

As labour nears, you might notice a pink, brown, or even blood-streaked 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 labour 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? Why Does It Come Out? When Do You Lose Your Mucus Plug? How Long After Losing the Mucus Plug Does Labour 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 seals the entrance of the uterus.

The mucus plug discharge can be thick, sticky, and sometimes streaked with blood. It might look like a small amount of a pink or brown jelly-like substance. It can come out in one blob or in smaller segments. You might notice it on the toilet paper after you wipe, or you may not see it at all. Sometimes it can be a little tricky to tell whether what you see is the mucus plug or typical vaginal discharge so ask your midwife if you’re in doubt.

Although it’s normal to see a small amount of blood mixed in with the mucus, if you notice any fresh bleeding, like a menstrual period, contact your midwife or call the hospital straight away as this may be something else requiring medical attention.

The names mucus plug and bloody show or ‘show’ are often used interchangeably. Whichever term you use your midwife or doctor will know what you mean; you could even describe what you see to be even more accurate.

Why Does It Come Out?

The mucus plug comes loose and dislodges when the cervix starts to open (dilate) and it’s then pushed out into the vagina. Losing the mucus plug is a sign you are approaching labour, or it can be an early sign of labour itself. Contact your midwife, as they’ll be able to advise you on the next steps. Your midwife may ask you if you’ve seen any other signs of labour, such as your water breaking. Keep in mind: Seeing the mucus plug is different to when your waters break, which is where a clear fluid gushes or trickles out. If you have a little time now, watch this short video on ‘What happens when your water breaks’.

When Do You Lose Your Mucus Plug?

The mucus plug can come loose several days before labour starts, or even at the very onset of labour when contractions have already started. If your pregnancy goes to full term the mucus plug will come out between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. In other words, in the 9th month of pregnancy. If you notice this discharge before 37 weeks of pregnancy, contact your midwife or doctor right away, because this may be a sign of preterm labour.

How Long After Losing the Mucus Plug Does Labour Start?

If you see the show while also experiencing contractions then labour has already begun, but keep in mind, you may also see the mucus plug several days beforehand. If you’re in any doubt, contact your midwife.

Once it comes loose, you might want to get your hospital bag ready for when it’s time to go. If your midwife advises you to stay at home and wait a while, you might want to take a look at our article on comfort measures during labour – you never know which tip might help! And, for a little fun, take our quiz on labour pain relief to share your view and see what other mums think. The big moment when you finally meet your little one is nearly here! Take this time to relax and conserve your energy so that you’re ready for what’s to come! Good luck – you’ve got this!

FAQs at a Glance

Is losing the mucus plug a very early sign of labour?

Yes, it can be. You may notice it days before labour starts, or at the very onset of labour.

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 see it on your pants. Some women don’t notice it at all. If you’re in any doubt about any kind of vaginal discharge, contact your midwife or doctor.

Can a mucus plug be clear and jelly like?

The mucus plug typically looks like a pink, jelly-like substance. Sometimes it can have streaks of blood in it.

How big is the mucus plug?

It’s hard to say. For some women the small amount of discharge comes out all at once, and for others, it comes out in smaller parts.

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