One of the more unsettling parts of pregnancy, aside from bathroom shenanigans and embarrassing sex escapades, involves the mucus plug. It doesn't sound like the most inviting thing in the world, but the closer you get to your due date, the more you'll probably become obsessed with the mucus plug and what it means when you lose it. So, how do you know if you've lost your mucus plug? There are some signs every pregnant woman should definitely look out for, especially if that due date is right around the proverbial corner.
Healthline describes the mucus plus as a "jellylike fluid" that thickens, and "plugs" the cervical canal. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) goes on to explain that the purpose of the mucus plug (or bloody show) is to prevent bacteria from entering the cervix. Prior to labor, the plug is expelled so that the baby can pass through the cervix during labor and delivery. Truth be told, you might not know if you've lost your mucus plug, thanks to how closely it resembles the usual vaginal discharge associated with the tail end of a woman's pregnancy.
Dr. Michael Cackovic, MD, OB-GYN at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, tells The Bump that a woman typically loses the mucus plug after 37 weeks gestation. You are physically capable of losing it earlier, but, because losing your mucus plug can be a sign you're going into labor, shedding it earlier than 37 weeks could indicate that you're in the beginning phase of preterm labor. You should definitely call your doctor is you suspect you have lost your plug way, way before your due date.
The APA describes the mucus plug as "clear, slightly pink or blood tinged in color. It can be stringy mucus or a sticky discharge." So if you see a discharge that resembles the aforementioned description, chances are you've lost your mucus plug.
Labor might not start immediately, or even soon, after you've lost your mucus plug. But MucusPlug.net (yes — there is such a site!) says you should definitely pay attention to dull, aching pains — likened to menstrual cramps — after you've notices you've shed your mucus plug, because it could signify contractions are forming and labor is, in fact, on the way. Although, the site goes on to add that the mucus plug might not come out all at once, making it harder to spot. Just in case, you should forgo baths and swimming, and take extra care of personal hygiene down there, if you're noticing an increase in vaginal discharge. And, as always, check in with your health care provider.
If you're pretty sure you haven't lost your mucus plug, and you are close to your due date, there's no need to worry. Dr. Charles Ascher-Walsh, MD, director of the division of gynecology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells The Bump, “The loss of it has no real importance other than serving as a sign that labor may be soon." So really, the important point to note is how far along you are if you think you may have lost it. Otherwise, no biggie.
While you might not meet your baby for weeks after losing the plug, if you have realized you lost the mucus plug, and are in the "safe" zone for labor and delivery, it's important to note the next signs of labor. According to Healthline, these signs include the baby finally "drops" into the pelvis, your water breaking, cervical thinning, and, of course, those lovely contractions.
Contractions that become stronger and more regular are the surest way to know it's time to welcome baby. Losing the mucus plug is, honestly, just one sign labor is approaching, so there's no need to put all your focus on whether or not you've lost it. Though, if you're approaching your due date and wonder how to make the plug come out, you'll need a doctor and a healthy dose of Pitocin to push things along. Aside from that, prepare to practice a lot of patience.
Watch Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Check out the entire Romper's Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.