What Is a Mucus Plug, and What Happens When You Lose It?

As labour nears, you might notice a clear, pink, or even bloody 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 Is the Mucus Plug and What Does It Look Like?

During pregnancy, mucus accumulates in the cervix, forming a plug that stops bacteria from entering the uterus. The discharge can be clear, pink, a little bloody, or brownish in colour. The mucus can come out in one thick string or in smaller segments. You might notice it on the toilet paper after you wipe, or you may not see it or notice it at all. If you notice bleeding that’s heavy, like a menstrual period, contact your healthcare provider, as this may not be the mucus plug coming out, but something else that may require medical attention.

Is There a Difference Between the Bloody Show and the Mucus Plug?

The names mucus plug and bloody show are often used interchangeably. In some instances, a distinction is made between a mucus plug that is clear and mucus that is bloody or has streaks of blood in it, which may be called a bloody show instead. Whichever term you use, your healthcare provider 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) as labour nears. As the cervix dilates, the mucus is pushed out into the vagina. Seeing the mucus plug is a sign you are approaching labour, or it can be an early sign of labour itself. Learn more about some of the other commons signs of labour, including your water breaking and contractions. If your pregnancy is already full term (if you are 38 to 42 weeks pregnant), then losing the mucus plug is a sign that labour is approaching. You might choose to contact your healthcare provider, who’ll be able to advise you on the next steps, or you can wait until you experience contractions starting or your water breaking. If your labour is not yet full term, then contact your healthcare provider right away, as it may be a sign of preterm labour.

When Do You Lose Your Mucus Plug?

The mucus plug can come loose several days or one or two weeks before labour starts, or even at the very onset of labour. If your pregnancy goes to full term, you will lose your mucus plug in the 9th month of pregnancy. If you notice what looks like the mucus plug before 37 weeks of pregnancy, contact your healthcare provider, because this may be a sign you are going into preterm labour. Read up on the other signs of preterm labour. Usually, sometime after you lose the mucus plug, contractions will start. You can take our labour pain management poll to find out how other moms to be handle labour pains and get some ideas for keeping yourself comfortable in labour when the time.

How Long After Losing the Mucus Plug Does Labour Start?

Because the mucus plug can come out weeks before you go into labour, it’s not possible to tell exactly when labour will start. Contact your healthcare provider if you notice this kind of vaginal discharge. Your provider can confirm it and advise you on the next steps. If the mucus plug has come loose, you might want to get your hospital bag ready for when it’s time to go. If you have written a birth plan, now might be a good time to read over it, and pack it in your hospital bag, too.

FAQs at a Glance

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