During early pregnancy, a thick sticky plug is formed between the uterus and the vaginal canal of every expecting mother. This happens to avoid any bacterial infection from entering the vaginal canal and thus the uterus. This helps save the baby from infections and avoids premature delivery situations.
This plus is known as mucus plug. If not for the mucus plug, many women would not even be able to reach the full term of their pregnancy; thus, it is crucial to know about it. This article will help you understand the What’s, the Why’s, and How’s of the mucus plug during pregnancy.
Why Do Women Lose Their Mucus Plug
In simple terms, losing the mucus plug is an indication that your labour is near (1). Now, let us try to understand the biology behind it. As your cervix starts to get ready for the labour, or ‘ripens’ as we call it, it widens, gets softer and shorter. Eventually, the cervix opens enough for the plug to fall off. The plug might fall off all at once or, in some cases, might come out pieces by pieces. You will notice a gooey glob of mucus with blood in it. That is your mucus plug. Please remember that falling off the mucus plug is not the only sign that you are in labour. Please read our article on Labour Signs to know more.
When Would You Lose Your Mucus Plug
There is no thumb rule when any woman would lose her mucus plug. Some women lose it a few days before the due date; some lose it around week 37, that is a few weeks before the due date, while some women experience the mucus plug dislodging from their cervix while they are already in labour. There is nothing to worry about if your mucus plug is intact till week 37. If you experience mucus plug discharge before week 37, as a precaution and to ensure that everything is fine, you should consult your gynaecologist.
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How Does Mucus Plug Discharge Take Place
All through your pregnancy, you will experience vaginal discharge, which will more or less look like a mucus plug too. But do not get confused. Mucus discharge is thick and more jelly-like in consistency. For each expecting mom, the mucus plug will look different. But usually, it will:
- Be a clear or off-white jelly-like substance.
- Be sticky and stringy in texture.
- Be odorless.
- Be an inch or two long at max.
You may lose the plug in one go, which will look like a big blob of mucus, or it may even fall off piece by piece.
Difference Between A Mucus Plug And A Bloody Show
You must have also read about the bloody show. Both these happen towards the last few days or weeks of the pregnancy. Both occur as the cervix dilates to prepare you for childbirth. The mucus plug is just sticky jelly-like mucus that creates a barrier between your uterus and cervix canal. When that falls off, it is mostly just mucus and might have minimal traces of blood. On the other hand, when you experience a bloody show, it means that the blood vessels of your cervix have ruptured due to expansion. So, there will be more blood and less mucus in a bloody show.
Causes Of Mucus Plug Fallout
Although the fallout is natural and eventually happens in all pregnancies, a few things can trigger it. Here are three things that can cause plug fallout.
Having sex – Having sex during pregnancy, even in the last trimester or towards the end of your pregnancy, is not harmful to your baby or your pregnancy. But having sexual intercourse can loosen the plug and can result in fallout.
Cervical exams – In the last few weeks, your doctor would physically check your cervix to check dilation progress. Unfortunately, this can sometimes stretch or irritate the cervix and result in plug fallout.
Opening and softening of the cervix - is the most natural cause of mucus plug fallout. As your cervix opens and your body prepares for labour, your mucus plug will naturally fall out.
Losing Mucus Plug and Its Relation To Labour
Losing the mucus plug is only one of the signs that your labour is near. It would not indicate labour unless you experience the following symptoms too:
- Strong contractions
- Belly and lower back pain
- Bloody show
- Water breaking
Side Effects Of Losing Mucus Plug
The mucus plug pregnancy is the most natural and normal thing for an expecting mom. There are no side effects of losing it. In fact, it is an indication that your labour is near and your baby is soon arriving in this world. Having said that, if you lose the mucus plug before the 37th week, there is a possibility that you might end up in preterm labour.
What To Do After You Lose Your Mucus Plug
Losing your mucus plug indicates that your cervix is dilated and your labour is near. The first thing you need to do is relax and calm yourself and then talk to your gynaecologist about this. Here is what you can expect next:
- Your doctor will call you for a physical check-up to check the status of your cervix dilation.
- You will need to keep your hospital bag ready if you need to rush to the hospital at any hour.
- If you are a working professional, you should be informing your manager and team that you might now go into labour at any moment. Your spouse should be doing the same to be available at short notice.
- Plan no travel after this point.
- If your parents or family members plan to come to live with you to help you through childbirth and for the first few weeks, now is the time to inform them to pack the bags and come over.
When To Consult Your Doctor
Losing the plus is not harmful to or harms your pregnancy, but not everyone might experience the mucus plug falling around the 37th week of pregnancy. You should consult your doctor in any of the following scenarios:
- If you lose the mucus plug before the 37th week of pregnancy.
- If you lose the plug and experience symptoms like intense pain, bleeding or fever.
- If you feel a sudden gush of fluids from your vagina, that might be your water breaking without the plug falling off.
Losing your mucus plug means you are at the last leg of your pregnancy and soon can expect the labour pain to kick in. This is the ideal time to try Safe At Home Exercises To Induce Labour and to ensure that you have your hospital bag ready! Stress is your biggest enemy in this phase; thus, keep calm and get prepared to welcome your baby.