Losing your mucus plug and not sure what not to do? First things first: what is a mucus plug in pregnancy, and why was it there in the first place?
Just when you thought pregnancy couldn’t get any weirder, there you have it: the mucus plug.
A plug. Made out of mucus.
Look, the mucus plug is not going to win any awards for aesthetic appeal, but it does perform one heck of a function.
We’re going to talk about what it is, what it looks like, what losing your mucus plug means at the end of your pregnancy, and what you should avoid if you lose your mucus plug
In this article: 📝
- What is a mucus plug?
- What does a normal mucus plug look like?
- What does losing mucus plug look like?
- What to do after mucus plug comes out?
- Things to avoid after losing mucus plug
- Can your mucus plug grow back?
What is a mucus plug?
So yes, the mucus plug is literally a plug of mucus.
And what is it plugging exactly? The cervix.
By doing so, the mucus plug prevents bacteria, viruses, and anything else unwanted from getting to your fetus.
Basically, that little being inside you has a bouncer.
It’s a VIF (Very Important Fetus).
In fact, the job of the mucus plug in pregnancy is such an important one that, without it, carrying a pregnancy to term would be almost impossible.
The story of the mucus plug begins right at fertilization.
When your body catches wind that there is a newly fertilized egg in town, it kicks into action with somewhat of an all-hands-on-deck approach.
The cervical glands get the message and roar into action by secreting a thick, sticky goo.
Said goo gets to work at creating the plug, filling the space until it’s a Fort Knox against any foreign invaders looking to get to your fetus.
And then, approximately 9 months later, its contract is up, and it exits your vagina and retires itself.
Why do I have a mucus plug when I’m not pregnant?
It’s not possible to have a mucus plug when not pregnant, but it is possible (and perfectly normal) to have discharge.
At different points in your menstrual cycle, the consistency of your discharge can change ‒ sometimes to something more jelly-like, like a mucus plug.
But if you’re at all concerned about any changes in your vaginal health, including discharge, it’s best to speak with your doctor.
What does a normal mucus plug look like?
So, what does a mucus plug look like?
Well, it’s usually a clear (or white), jelly-like object a couple of inches long that can be a little tinged with blood, making it look pink, red, or brown.
Does mucus plug always have blood?
No, not always, but it’s often nothing to worry about if it does have some blood.
Even a mucus plug with brown blood can be totally normal, but if you are concerned about the amount of blood in your mucus plug, speak with your doctor.
What are signs that your mucus plug is coming out?
The mucus plug may have been mentioned in your mama’s group (Peanut or IRL), but most of the discussion was probably around the loss of it.
Yes, the mucus plug is known more for its exit strategy than for its work, sadly.
This makes sense, since losing the mucus plug is the first time we actually see or notice it.
At the end of pregnancy, when your body needs that cervix open so that your baby can pass through, that mucus plug of yours needs to vacate the premises.
It leaves before you even got to know each other….
What does losing mucus plug look like?
Losing the mucus plug means a vaginal discharge like no other.
It may come out in one big chunk or in pieces.
Sometimes, it comes out so gradually that you don’t even notice it happening.
You may find it in your underwear, in the bath or shower, on your bedsheets, or in the toilet.
(Think any location where your period is brought to your attention.)
In some cases, you might feel some cramping that feels a bit like menstrual pain.
Losing your mucus plug can be accompanied by the bloody show— a concoction of mucus and blood from the lining of the cervix—but this is not always the case.
Here’s what it looks like when you lose your mucus plug:
- Size: When that plug pops, you’ll likely expel around two tablespoons of mucus.
- Texture: Mucus-y, gelatinous goo. You will know it by its globby-ness, like really thick uncooked egg whites. Other kinds of pregnancy discharges tend to have a thinner consistency.
- Color: It can be clear, yellowy, pinky, or brown. If it happens at the same time as the bloody show, things may be a bit more on the red-ish side. If you experience any bleeding that feels excessive or is very bright red in color, get in touch with your healthcare practitioner to rule out any issues.
How do I know if it’s discharge or mucus plug?
What’s the difference between mucus plug and discharge?
Well, a mucus plug is significantly thicker and more jelly-like than normal discharge.
Do you cramp when losing your mucus plug?
Yes, sometimes ‒ some of our Peanut mamas have reported feeling some cramping (like period cramps) when they were losing their mucus plug.
What to do after mucus plug comes out?
You might think that losing your mucus plug is a surefire sign that labor’s started.
Yes and no.
It could be that labor doesn’t officially start for another few weeks after you lose your mucus plug.
But if your mucus plug is accompanied by your water breaking and regular contractions (every 4 minutes, lasting 1 minute each), then get your hospital bag ready ‒ baby’s on the way!
When do you lose your mucus plug?
You can expect the great unplug from about 37 weeks on.
When your cervix begins to dilate (expand) and efface (thin) in preparation for labor, the mucus plug in cervix starts to dislodge.
So what happens if you lose your mucus plug before 37 weeks?
Chances are, everything will be fine.
It may just mean that your cervix is loosening up a little early.
But best to check.
Get in touch with your doctor as soon as you can to rule out the possibility of any complications or preterm delivery.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, especially before 36 weeks, call your doctor right away:
- Bright red blood – although it has a pretty theatrical name, the bloody show only produces about a spoonful or two of blood. If you notice more than this, get checked as soon as you can.
- Five or more contractions in one hour.
- Any intense pain in your pelvis, back, or lower abdomen.
- A rush of clear, watery liquid discharge (not the globby, gooey kind associated with the loss of the mucus plug).
How dilated do you have to be to lose your mucus plug?
Losing the mucus plug generally means that your cervix has begun to dilate.
How much? Well, there is no easy answer to this.
While dilation and effacement cause the mucus plug to dislodge, it can evacuate at any point once this process has begun.
Can you dilate without losing mucus plug?
A little ‒ but once you dilate to a certain point (it changes for each pregnancy body), your mucus plug will come out.
Does losing mucus plug mean dilation or effacement?
Usually, yes ‒ losing mucus plug can be an indicator that you’ve started to dilate or efface, or both!
Can you lose mucus plug early?
Yes, you can lose your mucus plug early, but if you lose yours sooner than 37 weeks into your pregnancy, it’s recommended to contact your doctor, just in case.
Some people do start losing mucus plug gradually fairly early on, too ‒ although you may not actually notice, if it comes out in small bits.
How long after losing your mucus plug do you go into labor?
How long after losing mucus plug does labor start?
While losing your mucus plug means that your baby’s arrival is imminent, it does not necessarily signal labor.
Your body is still busy doing all the behind-the-scenes prep work for the big day.
Bottom line: all bodies are different.
Sometimes that mucus plug pops hours before labor, sometimes weeks.
Here are some of the signs that baby is on its way:
- Your water breaks (which can feel like a little trickle or a gushing rush).
- You experience regular contractions that get more frequent. (Try to time them if you can so that you can give the intel to your healthcare provider.)
- Your baby drops lower into your pelvis, ready for its great escape.
Will your water break after losing mucus plug?
Yes, usually at the final stretch of pregnancy, you’ll lose your mucus plug before your waters break.
But it can take days or even weeks from losing your mucus plug to your waters breaking.
Things to avoid after losing mucus plug
Once your mucus plug has come out, that can mean that bacteria can more easily make their way into your body.
So there are a few things that you may want to avoid, especially if you lose your mucus plug before 37 weeks:
- Penetrative sex
- Penetrative masturbation
- Swimming in any body of water, even a pool
- Having a bath
Can you take a bath after losing mucus plug?
Yes and no ‒ it’s not recommended for people who have lost their mucus plug before 37 weeks, and it might be a good idea not to sit in any water even if you lose your mucus plug after that point.
Showers might be your best bet here.
Are you at risk of infection after losing mucus plug?
Yes, you are at a higher risk of infection after losing your mucus plug.
But that doesn’t mean that you will definitely get an infection ‒ it’s more like your body’s way of telling you not to do anything that could tempt infections at this time.
Can your mucus plug grow back?
Yes, it can!
Sometimes in pregnancy, you may lose parts of your mucus plug in cervix, so to protect baby, it’ll regenerate itself from vaginal discharge.
Pretty impressive stuff!
We know, there are so many things to look out for in pregnancy, but if you’re looking at mucus plugs, chances are, you’re into the final stretch.
Good luck. Here’s to a (relatively) peaceful ride into mamahood!