Every woman’s labor and delivery process is unique. Although not everyone will lose their mucus plug, most women do, which can be a sign of impending labor! In this article, we’ll share all the details you need to know about mucus plugs, including what it is, what it looks like, and when and how you’ll lose it.
What Is a Mucus Plug?
During the majority of pregnancy, your cervix should remain closed or not dilated. But even when it is closed, there is a small opening through the cervix. The mucus plug is a buildup of mucus in the cervical canal. This mucus buildup is one mechanism your body uses to protect baby from the outside world. When the mucus plug falls out, this is a sign your cervix is starting to soften and/or dilate. It doesn’t mean you will go into labor immediately. But it is a good sign that your body is preparing for birth.1
What Does a Mucus Plug Look Like?
Its appearance can vary from a thick and hard glob of mucus to a more slimy and sticky glob.1 Sometimes, it may have blood streaks in it as well. Blood streaks are okay, especially if you have recently had sex or had your cervix checked.3 But bleeding like a period is always something you should alert your provider of.
I’m Having a Lot of “Mucus Discharge.” Is That My Mucus Plug?
Throughout pregnancy, and especially as the end nears, most women notice a sharp increase in the amount of vaginal discharge they have. This is very normal.1 As long as you aren’t having other symptoms, such as itching or an odor, it usually isn’t anything to worry about. Never hesitate to ask your provider about your discharge at visits. Sometimes, a bacterial or yeast infection could be causing your symptoms, which can be treated.2
When Will I Go Into Labor?
Don’t rush to the hospital yet! Although losing your mucus plug is a good sign that your body is preparing for labor, it doesn’t mean you are in labor. Some women do begin having contractions soon after — hours or days later. Yet, sometimes, it can still be weeks before you go into labor.1 Make sure to mention it to your provider at your next appointment. They will likely check your cervix to see if you are starting to dilate. If you are having regular contractions, heavy bleeding, or think your water is broken, alert your provider.
Will It Happen More Than Once?
It may! Your body consistently produces more cervical and vaginal mucus, so if you didn’t go into labor, the mucus plug can reaccumulate, which means you could lose it again.1 Especially if you lost your mucus plug after your provider checked your cervix or stripped your membranes, it will likely happen again the next time they check you.
What if I Don’t Lose My Mucus Plug?
That’s okay. Some women may not notice if it falls out while using the restroom. It can come out in pieces or all at once. Or it may happen at the same time as labor starts.1,4 Don’t worry. Even if you don’t lose it, it doesn’t indicate the outcome of your labor and delivery process.1
How Do I Know if My Water Is Broken?
Most women have a much-increased amount of vaginal mucus discharge by the end of pregnancy.5 Because of this, women may feel like they often have wet underwear, so this isn’t the best judgment. Typically, when your water breaks, you will feel leakage of a pure water substance, not mucus. Sometimes, it is an obvious gush of fluid and even runs down your legs or onto the floor. Other times, it can be a subtle, steady leakage of fluid.6
It is common for women to leak urine at the end of pregnancy, thanks to your baby sitting directly on top of your bladder.7 It can be difficult to determine which it is. If you ever feel confused, don’t hesitate to call your provider to talk it out. If they think you need to be tested, they will inform you and likely schedule an appointment.
Losing your mucus plug is a good sign that your body is preparing for labor and delivery, but it doesn’t mean it will happen immediately. Afterward, be on the lookout for signs of labor because it could happen soon!