Facts about a mucus plug are important, especially to pregnant women. The meaning, color, and loss of mucus plug, and its connection to labor during pregnancy. The questions relate to how, when, where and why it forms and when you can lose it. Definitely, descriptive pictures of mucus plug can sufficiently illustrate how big it is and how it looks like. Also, it is vital to set out a clear difference between mucus plug, bloody show, sporting, and other discharges. Whereas a mucus plug is clear in some women, it may be of various colors in others. While it comes out early in some, it might fall out just before or during labor. This post seeks to adequately discuss and explain common issues about a mucus plug.
What Is a Mucus Plug? Definition & Meaning
A mucus plug is a thick jelly-like substance that fills and seals the cervical canal of a pregnant woman. For this reason, it is also called a cervical plug or cervical mucus plug. It is often misspelled as ‘mucous plug‘. Its function is to prevent the entry of microbes such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses into the uterus, where they may endanger the life of the developing fetus.
Basically, the mucus plug protects the unborn baby from infections that might be caused by the entry of pathogens into the uterus (womb).
However, mucus plug does not only block the entry of pathogens, it also inhibits and destroys them. It consists of antimicrobial agents including immunoglobulins (antibodies) and antimicrobial peptides. These anti-microbial agents fight bacteria, fungi, viruses and other foreign substances that may try to make their way into the uterus. Among them are lysozymes that destroy the cell walls of pathogens.
How and When Does the Mucus Plug Form?
A mucus plug forms progressively starting from the end of the first month of conception. It is formed by the accumulation of secretions from the cervical glands that are located on the cervical walls. Conception triggers a change in hormonal balance, leading to an increased production of estrogen and progesterone, which are the hormones responsible for the development of the fetus.
In turn, the high levels of estrogen and progesterone stimulate the secretion of the thick gelatinous substance that constitutes the mucus plug. The substance trickles and lodges in the cervical canal gradually, until it fully fills the entire cervical canal. A few weeks thereafter, the cervical canal becomes completely sealed by the mucus plug.
Normally, the secretion of the thick substance that forms a mucus plug is continuous. This is supported by a high level of estrogen and progesterone, which is maintained throughout pregnancy. The newer secretions replace the older portions of the mucus plug continually as it wears out, keeping the it fresh. The worn out parts are passed out in traces that are usually not noticeable.
What Does a Mucus Plug Look Like?
It looks like a thick jelly-like substance with a clear, yellowish appearance while in the cervical canal. However, its appearance may change after it is passed out. Usually, the mucus plug becomes less thick after being discharged from the cervical canal.
Still, the appearance of the mucus plug may vary depending on nature and circumstances under which it is discharged by the pregnant woman. For example, if it contains streaks of blood, it may appear reddish, brown or pink, depending on the amount of blood that combines with it. It may also appear green or greenish in color.
Yet still, the experience of the woman passing out a mucus plug determines how it looks like. Prior to is the discharge, the cervix expands. In some cases, the expansion of the cervix leads to bursting of some of its capillaries, especially in first-time pregnant women. Therefore, first-time pregnant woman is likely to discharge a bloody mucus plug with a reddish, brown or pink color.
However, this is not always the case, as a first-time pregnant woman can still pass out a clear mucus plug. Similarly, a mother who has previously given birth can still pass out a bloody one. Therefore, it is difficult to definitely predict its appearance because the nature of every woman and their health also play a role.
Mucus Plug Color
The typical color of a mucus plug is clear, whitish, yellowish or white-yellowish. By nature, some may have a greenish color. However, as already mentioned, it might be tinged with blood to acquire reddish, brownish or pinkish color. This happens when cervical wall capillaries burst as the cervical canal dilates or effaces in preparation for labor and birth.
Despite the color, the mucus plug is always translucent, unless there is too much blood tinging as to obscure the translucency. Unless there are other health issues, all these and other close colors should be deemed normal.
Clear Mucus Plug
Passing out a clear mucus plug is very common and normal. However, its color of the is not usually transparent completely. The term clear in this case may refer to any near transparent appearance. Usually, there are some traces of whitish or yellowish color in it.
If you have a clear mucus, it means that the capillaries in the cervical wall did not burst, hence no blood tinting in the plug. This is very common among mothers who have previously conceived as compared to those who have not.
White Mucus Plug
Hite or whitish mucus plug is also very common and normal. Usually, white here does not necessarily mean that it is completely white. Rather, it implies that the general color is white and of course it is kind of translucent.
When a woman passes out a white or whitish mucus plug, it is likely that the capillaries in the cervical did not burst during dilation and effacement. It means that your cervical wall is elastic enough to allow stretching without bursting the blood capillaries on its walls. This is common with subsequent pregnancies rather that first pregnancy.
Yellow Mucus Plug
Your mucus plug can also be yellow. More precisely, the color is actually yellowish or whitish-yellow. A yellowish mucus plug is still translucent and is considered to be very normal. It means that it is not tinged with blood and is common in consecutive pregnancies rather than first pregnancies.
Green Mucus Plug
It is also possible to have a green or rather greenish mucus plug. It all depends on your genetic composition, which is usually passed down from the parents. However, a greenish one relatively less common but still normal. It should not be cause for worry. In any case, greenish color is close to yellowish color, which is a very common color of a mucus plug.
Pink mucus Plug
A pink or pinkish mucus plug is also common, especially among first-time pregnant women. It simply means that your plug got tinged with a little blood before being discharged.
As already mentioned, the cervical wall of a pregnant woman dilates and effaces as labor and birth approach. This may cause the small blood vessels on the cervical walls to damaged, leading to some bleeding. This blood gets tinged in the mucus plug and in case it is only a little blood, the mucus plug may appear pink upon coming out.
Brown Mucus Plug
In case there is substantial bleeding as the cervical walls dilate and efface before labor and birth, there will be a lot more blood in the mucus plug. This will make it appear brownish or even reddish. It is still normal to pass out a brown one, so long as the bleeding is not so intense or does not last long. The extent of the bleeding depends on the number and degree of damage to the blood vessels or capillaries as the cervix stretches.
Bloody Mucus Plug
In case you pass out mucus plug tinted with blood, it may be referred to as a bloody mucus plug. Although some women may pass it out without blood, others may discharge a bloody one. Basically, It is not easy to predict whether a woman will produce a bloody one or not. However, women with their first-time pregnancies are more likely to pass out bloody mucus plug than those with subsequent pregnancies.
The cervical wall of a woman who is expectant for the first time is usually not stretchy enough to endure the dilation and effacement that takes place before the mucus plug comes out. Hence this process usually entails bursting of the capillaries in their cervical wall. As a result, the blood that bleeds combine with it before it is released, leading to a bloody mucus plug.
On the other hand, the walls of a woman with a subsequent pregnancy are normally stretchy due to previous experiences. Therefore, the walls are able to withstand the process of dilation and effacement without bursting their capillaries. This explains why first time pregnant women are more likely to have bloody mucus plugs as compared to women with subsequent pregnancies.
However, if you notice anything unusual, for example too much bleeding that does not seem to stop, contact or visit your healthcare provider for examination and advice. This might be an indication of dangerous complications search as placental abruption or placenta previa.
Mucus Plug Pictures (Images)
There are pictures of mucus plug at various relevant sections of this post, which illustrate what they actually look like. We have inserted more descriptive images in this section so that you can appreciate the variety of mucus plug that different women pass out. They are of different forms, shapes, and colors.
How Big Is The Mucus Plug?
A mucus plug is about 5 cm long and about ½ cm if it comes out without much distortion or disintegration. However, it often comes out when it has lost its original form. In volume, it is approximately equal to two tablespoons or one ounce.
Nevertheless, it might be even more challenging to determine the mucus plug size or volume, if it disintegrates and passes out in small portions or pieces or as a stream of mucus, which is a common occurrence. In such a case, you might not be able to estimate how much mucus plug is there.
Worse still, you might not see the mucus plug at all in some circumstances where it comes out when you are urinating, taking a shower. It might also come out late in which case it is expelled together with the water breaking or rupture of the membranes.
Mucus Plug and Pregnancy
There is a close relationship between a mucus plug and pregnancy. You can only get a mucus plug during pregnancy, and this typically happens a few weeks or days before birth. This happens when the relevant pregnancy hormones trigger changes that lead to its secretion.
Some women have claimed to have had a mucus plug when they are not pregnant. However, it is probably a different discharge mistaken for a mucus plug, especially when the woman involved does not have adequate information about vaginal discharges.
Women have other discharges which might be easily falsely identified as mucus plug. Such discharges include normal spotting, discharge during ovulation or other discharges, some of which may also arise due to health issues.
Losing Mucus Plug
Losing your mucus plug means that the mucus plug comes out from the cervix through the vagina. This typically happens during dropping down, a situation where the baby moves to the lower parts of the womb closer to the cervix, as birth nears.
During this period, the cervix is said to have ripened. It begins to dilate and efface, as a result of which the mucus plug becomes loosely held within the cervix. Consequently, the mucus plug falls out of the cervixes and passes out through the vagina.
During the dilation and effacement, the capillaries of the cervical wall may be damaged or ruptured. As a result, there may be some bleeding from the burst capillaries. The blood that comes out streaks the mucus plug before it is discharged from the cervical wall. This explains why there might be some blood stains in the mucus plug after being discharged.
Usually, a mucus plug discharge passes out as you take a shower or when relieving yourself (peeing) That is why you might see the mucus plug in the toilet if you happen to look into the toilet before flushing.
When Do You Lose Your Mucus Plug?
When does your mucus plug come out? Women usually lose it towards the end of pregnancy, typically between the 37th week and 42nd week. Therefore, there is no exact time when a mucus plug passes out. Hence, you cannot accurately predict when you will lose it.
Nevertheless, many women lose their mucus plug a few days to a few hours before labor. However, others lose it during labor such that it comes out with the fluids after water breaking. Similarly, there are women who lose their mucus plug much earlier than the 37th week.
How Early Can You Lose Your Mucus Plug?
It is also not uncommon for some women to lose the mucus plug early. Losing the mucus plug 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 or 36 weeks after conception is considered to be a bit early. In such cases, the mucus plug is usually replaced by new secretions to restore the much-needed protection.
However, many women lose the mucus plug after 37, 38, 39, 40 or 41 weeks after conception. This is considered to be a bit early but normal. As with the earlier loss of the mucus plug, it is usually replaced by new secretions. This ensures that the pregnancy is still protected pathogens and infections.
Can You Lose Your Mucus Plug in Early Pregnancy?
Although it is rare and unusual to lose your mucus plug in early pregnancy, it might actually happen. Unless there are other health issues, losing it in early pregnancy should not be a cause for worry. If this happens, the mucus plug is usually formed again.
The common causes of losing the mucus plug in early pregnancy include:
- premature dilation of the cervix due to impending premature labor
- a cervical exam may occasionally dislodge it
- thinning and opening up of the cervix due to various causes
It might be accidentally disturbed during a virginal examination. For women with subsequent pregnancy, the cervical walls may dilate early since it is now more elastic due to previous experiences.
However, it might be a worry if the cause of passing out the mucus plug is related to your health and infections. In case you lose it in early pregnancy, visit your doctor for examination, treatment, and advice.
What Should You Do If You Lose Your Mucus Plug in Early Pregnancy or Well Before Labor
If you lose your mucus plug too early, you may need to see your doctor for checkup and advice, just in case there is a health issue associated with it. Otherwise, there is no cause for worry. If the mucus plug came out too early before labor, it is usually replaced by fresh secretions from the cervical glands.
Since it might take some time for the new mucus plug to form in the cervix, you are advised to observe higher standards of hygiene, especial vaginal hygiene. By so doing, you will eliminate the possibility of microbes entering the womb and thereby endangering the unborn baby.
Among the measures you need to take is to avoid getting into the bathtub or swimming in any water. In addition, pay more attention to personal cleanliness. Take shower and change your underpants and bedding, especially bedsheets more frequently and avoid sexual intercourse.
How Late Can You Lose Your Mucus Plug
You can lose your mucus plug as late as during labor when there is water breaking also called rupture of membranes. In such a case, you will not notice the mucus plug as it will come out together with the fluids after water breaking. This is probably why some women have never experienced losing it, or even not seen it at all. Therefore, if you have never discharged a mucus plug, it might have passed out too late to be noticed.
What Does It Mean When Your Mucus Plug Comes Out?
Losing your mucus plug normally means that you are approaching the end of your pregnancy body is preparing for labor. It means that your cervix has begun dilating and effacing in preparation for birth. Effacement refers to thinning and stretching of the cervix dilation refers to the opening or widening of the cervical canal.
Can the Mucus Plug Come Out In Pieces
Losing mucus plug in pieces is a fairly common occurrence in some women. Usually, it comes out one big chunk or in small pieces over a few hours or days. Normally, subsequent pregnancies discharge one big mass of the mucus plug with just a little blood because their cervixes are more elastic.
On the other hand, women with their first pregnancy usually discharge it in small pieces or as a slow stream of mucus which is usually tinged with blood. This is because their cervixes are not least enough to allow it out as a whole. Typically, the cervix of first-time pregnant women does not actively dilate until labor starts. Therefore, in order to dislodge from the cervix, the mucus plug has to break down into pieces, which come out slowly.
What Happens After You Lose Your Mucus Plug?
What happens when you lose your mucus plug depends on particular circumstances for every woman. If you are in the 37-42 weeks category, it might be an indication that you may go into labor soon. It is more so if the loss of the mucus plug is accompanied by strong contractions or raking waters or both.
If this happens, it means that labor is upon you and you need to prepare accordingly by contacting your birth team, including your doctors. Otherwise, you may need to wait for a few days or weeks for labor to set in. Meantime, observe proper hygiene to prevent possible infections.
Is Losing the Mucus Plug a Sign of Labor?
Losing the mucus plug may be a sign of labor, but not always. The other signs of labor are rupture of the membranes, cervical effacement, and cervical dilation and strong regular contractions. However, in case you lose your mucus plug early, it may not be assign of labor. Therefore, unless the mucus plug comes out towards the end of your pregnancy, it does not mean that you are about to experience labor.
Nevertheless, if the loss of the mucus plug is accompanied by some of the other signs of labor like restrung regular contractions, then it will be a confirmation that labor is imminent. You need to make the necessary arrangements for birth, like alerting you’re the people who will assist you through your labor and your doctor.
How Long After Losing Mucus Plug Does Labor Start?
Upon losing your mucus plug, it might take from a few weeks to a few days before labor sets in. However, as we have already indicated, losing a mucus plug is often one of the signs of labor.
Therefore, labor might start even a few hours afterward. In case you are already experiencing constant contractions, it may be an indication that labor actually started before the discharge of the mucus plug. It is possible for the mucus plug to come out during labor.
How Do I Know If I Lost My Mucus Plug?
The only sure way to tell if you have lost a mucus plug is by seeing it. You can see it in your pants if comes out at night or during the day when you have your pants on. Although rarely, you might feel it fall out from your vagina as you pee or shower, especially if it comes out as a thick mass rather than pieces. Otherwise, you might not know whether you have lost it, especially if it comes in pieces or during labor.
What If I Don’t Pass Out a Mucus Plug Before Birth of The Child?
Some women say that they have never seen a mucus plug despite having given birth. Others do not even know anything about it. There are a number of cases where you might not notice it. Therefore, not having seen it should not make you think you think that you never had it.
The mucus plug usually comes out when you are taking a shower or when you are peeing in which case it hardly noticed. Although you might feel something a little heavier passing out, it may not really bother you since it is painless. Similarly, if the discharge of the mucus plug happens during labor, it will come out with the fluids and you might not notice it.
Furthermore, there is a possibility of the mucus plug disintegrating into small pieces before coming out. In other cases, it passes out slowly as small quantities of thin mucus after breaking down. In these cases, you might not notice the mucus plug, because the discharge resembles the normal vaginal discharge.
Mucus Plug Identification
There are various discharges that are passed out by women, some of which might have a similar appearance, As such, one discharge may be mistaken for another. However, you can still tell the difference between the discharges by considering the period and the circumstances in which they occur. The most common discharge that brings confusion includes the mucus plug and spotting or bloody show.
Mucus Plug vs Discharge
It is possible to tell whether you passed out mucus plug or some other discharge. Whereas a mucus plug is generally thick jelly-like fluid, other discharges are normally much thinner. In addition, mucus plug is released by a pregnant woman a few weeks to a few days to birth while other discharges may occur even when a woman is not pregnant.
Mucus Plug vs Spotting
The mucus plug is a thick fluid that blocks the cervical canal of a pregnant woman and it may come out a few weeks to a few days before birth. On the other hand, spotting refers to a lighter discharge of blood that occurs outside periods, usually before or after the period.
Spotting can also occur during pregnancy and includes bloody show just before or at the beginning of labor. What stands out is that spotting is not always associated with pregnancy but mucus plug is.
Mucus Plug vs Bloody Show
Is it a mucus plug or bloody show? There is a close connection between the two such that the two terms are sometimes wrongly used interchangeably. Probably, it is because they are both associated with pregnancy and they happen at almost or at the same time.
Bloody show is the virginal passage of light blood or thin blood-tinged mucus which occurs a few days before birth. It may occur before labor or at the beginning of labor as the cervical canal dilates and effaces in readiness for birth. During this process, the mucus and blood from the cervical glands are released and discharged as bloody show.
On the other hand, loss of a mucus plug refers to the expulsion of thick jelly-like substance that fills and seals the cervical canal during pregnancy. By comparison, a mucus plug is a thick gelatinous fluid that may contain streaks of blood, while bloody show is a stringy fluid that always contains streaks of blood.
Furthermore, bloody show always occurs just before or during labor. However, a mucus plug loss can take place a few weeks or days to birth. In the event that it comes out just before or at the beginning of labor, both the bloody show and the mucus plug come out at the same time. In such a case, the blood usually streaks the mucus plug. This leads to the discharge of a bloody mucus plug, which is pinkish, brownish or reddish, depending on the amount of blood involved.
Sources and References
- Mucus Plug: Does Labor Start When You Lose it? https://www.mamanatural.com/mucus-plug/
- 10 Facts You Should Know About a Mucus Plug: http://www.mucusplug.net/
- How long after the mucus plug comes out does labour start? https://www.babycentre.co.uk/x25006041/how-long-after-the-mucus-plug-comes-out-does-labour-start
- What Is The Mucus Plug? https://www.thebump.com/a/what-is-the-mucus-plug
- Discharging the Mucus Plug & Bloody Show During Pregnancy: https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/symptoms-and-solutions/mucous-plug.aspx
- Your mucus plug – It’s show time: http://www.bounty.com/pregnancy-and-birth/birth/in-labour/your-mucus-plug
- Mucus plug: What is it and what does it mean? http://www.motherandbaby.co.uk/pregnancy-and-birth/pregnancy/mucus-plug-what-is-it-and-what-does-it-mean
- Mucus Plug and Bloody Show in Pregnancy: http://www.babymed.com/body-changes/mucus-plug-and-bloody-show-pregnancy#
- Mucus Plug (The Show) During Pregnancy – What Is It? https://www.bellybelly.com.au/pregnancy/mucus-plug-show/
- Mucus Plug: Bloody Show: http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/mucus-plug/
- Pregnancy and Signs of Labor: http://www.webmd.com/baby/labor-signs#1
- How to Know When You Lose Your Mucus Plug: http://www.livestrong.com/article/344505-how-to-know-when-you-lose-your-mucus-plug/