From early pregnancy – at around seven weeks - a plug of mucus seals your cervix to help prevent infection – hence the name, mucus plug.
However, just before labour starts – or during the early stages –it can come away.
It’s nothing to worry about, simply a sign that your cervix is starting to open and labour may follow quickly or within a few days.
If you’re a first time mum you may find that your labour may not start for another week or so after you lose the mucus plug, whereas if you’ve had a baby before it may mean that active labour is a few hours away.
Not everyone notices losing their mucus plug but if this does happen - it just means that everything’s moving in the right direction. And if it doesn’t, don’t worry it’s one sign that labour is starting but not the only one, as your waters can break or you may just begin to experience lower back pain similar to period pains.
Remember that active labour is defined as when you experiencing regular contractions or your waters have broken. Not when you’re losing your mucus plug.
What does a show look like?
The plug may come out as one blob-like lump, or in several pieces - or simply as increased vaginal discharge over a few days. It’s normal for the stretchy, sticky, jelly-like mucus to be thick, clear or cloudy and it’s sometimes it may be pink or tinged with brown or red blood, which it is also known as a bloody show, or just a “show”.
So basically it’s not the most attractive stuff and some of the descriptions women use to describe it aren’t that pleasant: “Like a long thick slug of snot” or “like a glob of semen” – you get the picture! There’s no pain or smell it just doesn’t look very nice!
What do I need to do about it?
There’s no need to call your midwife when you notice the show unless you’re also getting regular contractions. If you’re losing more blood, it may be a sign that something is wrong, so call your hospital or midwife straight away. Otherwise just get ready because soon it’ll be the real “show time.”
Sometimes just having sex can cause it to appear and it’s not uncommon for labour wards to get calls for women worried that there’s something wrong when they notice a bloody show after sex in the late stages of pregnancy.
A sweep or a vaginal examination to check on the cervix can disturb the plug too so don’t be alarmed if there are signs of it on the midwife’ gloves. It’s a good sign that the cervix is really opening up in preparation for your baby’s grand arrival.
What happens if I lose my mucus plug in early pregnancy?
Some mums-to-be report that they have lost their mucus plug before they are due or early on in pregnancy. However, in many cases this is nothing to worry about - occasionally this does happen and your mucus plug coming away isn’t a necessary sign that you’re heading towards labour.
However, if you’re worried or have any other signs of labour before 37 weeks, contact your midwife or doctor as soon as possible.