Losing Your Mucus Plug During Pregnancy: What To Expect
There are a few different signs and triggers that let you know that labor is coming. Losing your mucus plug is one of them. While it’s not the same signaling as your water breaking it is a good indication that you should prepare to go into labor. How long it will take you to go into labor is completely different from woman to woman.
Let’s talk about what your mucus plug is and what you can expect once you lose it.
What is the Mucus Plug?
As your baby starts to grow and develop in your tummy, your cervix canal starts to make a barrier from the outside so that no infection or unwanted bacteria can get through. What happens is mucus in the form of a jelly substance starts to build up around the cervix walls and eventually gathers to the point where the mucus plugs up the cervix canal opening.
Importance of the Mucus Plug
While the cervix begins to soften and swell, mucus will begin to line the walls and build up till there are no gaps left in the opening. This is all done because of the hormone progesterone that continues to keep the mucus fresh so that the antibodies that are inside the mucus can do their correct job of not letting any viruses inside the fetus.
As the baby becomes more developed in the womb, the hormones will change from progesterone to estrogen where the wall will then thin and release itself eventually through vaginal discharge. This is so that the baby can be delivered.
Are you in labor after losing your Mucus Plug?
When women lose their mucus plugs and can be an indicator that labor is coming because this means that the cervix is opening and getting ready to deliver the baby. As the cervix dilates the mucus plug will become thin and eventually make its way out of the vaginal canal.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are in labor. Women can go into labor hours after losing their mucus plug or even weeks after. Each situation is different. If any of the symptoms are accompanied by losing your mucus plug this is a better indicator it is time to start thinking about going to the hospital.
Mild to Strong Contractions
If contractions have begun, this is one of them for sure signs that you will be going into labor. As contractions begin to increase in frequency your cervix is likely dilating itself. At this point, you may have already lost your mucus plug or will soon because of the cervix softening and opening.
When your water breaks or your membranes erupt usually contractions follow. Your water breaking aside from contractions is the biggest sign of labor. This is when the cervix starts to dilate and open up as contractions become stronger and longer-lasting.
This is something that the doctor has to check as it would be difficult for you to tell yourself. But as your body prepares to give birth your cervix walls thin and become stretched to make room for the baby to pass through the canal and to be delivered. This check by the doctor is usually done closer to the due date to see how your body is preparing and transforming according to schedule.
What do you do after losing your Mucus Plug?
Because losing your mucus plug is such a natural part of the process there is generally no concern when you do. You should look for other symptoms and signs and note the timing of the pregnancy. There are a few things you should look out for and contact your doctor if noticed.
Earlier than 36 Weeks
If you have lost your mucus plug earlier than 36 weeks it’s good to try and take note of the size, shape, color, etc. and call your doctor. It isn’t unheard of to lose your mucus plug this early but it is also sometimes an indicator of labor which can be important if you go into labor earlier than expected. This can allow the doctor to keep an eye on things.
Likely the doctor will call you in to get an immediate evaluation of your cervix and your baby just to make sure things are running smoothly. If there are any signs that you may be headed towards early labor, they can start the preparations. Better to be aware of it than not. As mentioned though sometimes women lose their mucus plug early by a couple of weeks and they are still not ready to go into labor. It’s normal.
Later than 37 Weeks
This is the typical range that a woman will start to lose her mucus plug. Having said that some women don’t even notice that they have lost their mucus plug. Because it may come out in the shower or while urinating some women may think it’s just vaginal discharge and not think twice about it. If you do notice that you have lost your mucus plug it’s never a bad idea to take note of it and let your doctor know the next time you come in for your scheduled appointment. If you experience some unseal symptoms with mucus plug then it is always best to call your doctor and let them know.
Losing your Mucus Plug early
If you lose your mucus plug earlier than 36 weeks it does not necessarily mean that you have an unhealthy baby or have had a miscarriage. It is however important to talk to your doctor as they will need to evaluate as it can be a sign of preterm labor.
Because losing your mucus plug is when your cervix is preparing for labor it’s a possible indication that you will go into what is referred to as preterm labor. This means having the baby earlier than the set due date. Signs of preterm labor include.
- Bright red blood from the vagina
- Contractions (more than five in an hour
- More pelvic pressure than normal
- Water breakage
While some women experience spotting leading up to pregnancy and still have healthy babies, bright red bleeding that is more than spotting can be a sign of preterm labor and you should contact your doctor immediately.
Labor contractions that pick up in frequency so that you are having five in one hour is a sign you are going into preterm labor if you are ahead of your due date.
Increased pelvic pressure can be a sign that the baby has dropped where the breathing has become easier but the pressure on your pelvic pain has increased. This is because the baby has gotten into position for delivery.
As noted, your water breaking is one of them for sure signs you are going into labor as contractions usually follow quickly after.
Understanding miscarriage is imperative here because sometimes women can’t tell if they are passing tissue or passing the mucus plug. The symptoms that come along with a miscarriage before the 20th week are significant to pay attention to.
- Abdominal cramping and pain
- Back pain
- Passing Tissue
- Loss of Pregnancy Symptoms
- Vaginal Bleeding
While the mucus plug may have a little bit of spotting or blood on it, it is not the same as having vaginal bleeding like a period blow or passing tissue. This is why if you do see the mucus plug come out it is important to note what week you are at and the timing of the issue. If you feel more sudden pain in your stomach and back this can be an indicator of miscarriage coupled along with other symptoms. When you lose your mucus plug you may experience light cramping which is different from more severe symptoms.
Mucus Plug FAQs
While this information may seem alarming it is important to know that most doctors and hospitals know how to administer Pitocin correctly and safely. You may still have some questions so here are the most commonly asked questions about Pitocin
What is the difference between the Bloody Show and the Mucus Plug?
These two terms are used interchangeably for the most part. The reason being is that a mucus plug looks like a clear liquid and gel-like substance that is vaginally discharged. Some women refer to it as the bloody show because in other cases the mucus may have streaks of blood in and around it. This is not necessarily a cause to be concerned about as it happens quite a lot. Regardless of which terminology you use, a doctor will understand that you are referring to the mucus plug that is built up in your cervix canal.
Does the Mucus Plug always come out?
The mucus plug always falls out naturally. This is due to the thinning process we mentioned when the hormones change from progesterone to estrogen and the cervix begins to soften and dilate to allow the baby to come through the birth canal. Having said that, your mucus plug should always come out naturally, and trying to pull it out yourself is dangerous. It risks infection to your baby and does the main job of preventing unwanted viruses and disease to reach the fetus at any point. The mucus plug has a beneficial function for both the mother and the baby.
Does it hurt to pass the Mucus Plug?
In some cases, women don’t even realize they have lost their mucus plug because it can happen during urination and going to the bathroom. It isn’t unheard of to experience some mild symptoms around the time that you lose your mucus plug because it can be an indicator that you are going into labor soon. Some mild contractions and other sensations can be associated with the mucus plug if you are someone that is going into labor shortly after.
Keep An Eye Out
While everyone loses their mucus plug at some point during the end of the pregnancy, it is never a bad idea to keep a close eye on what you are doing. This will allow you to let your doctor know if you do lose it earlier than expected and if any accompanying symptoms may indicate you are going to have preterm labor.
Even if you don’t lose your mucus plug early if any unusual symptoms accompany it, losing it after 37 weeks is important to let your doctor know. Likely they will want to get a check-up on you and the baby as you approach your due date.
The mucus plug serves an important function in keeping your baby safe from any infections and viruses. It’s a natural process triggered by progesterone then later released and thinned out because of estrogen. Since this happens naturally you should never seek to remove the mucus plug itself. It always comes out when it is ready and indicates your cervix is becoming favorable for the birth of your baby.