If you get into a room with a group of your mom friends and ask about their experiences with mucus plugs, you're going to get a lot of very explicit storytelling. It's one of the stranger parts of pregnancy. I mean, who expects to go to the bathroom one day to find that their underwear looks as though someone has blown their nose in them? No one. There's no preparation for that. If you're a first-time mom, you probably have questions about your mucus plug. For instance, is your mucus plug bloody or just mucus you're losing? The answer is different for everyone, but there are things to keep in mind.
The mucus plug is actually a really cool structure. According to the journal Acta Obstetricia (AOGS), the "mucus plug is a large, complex structure within the cervical canal that is shed shortly before or during labor." It's purpose is to inhibit (not block entirely) bacteria from entering the womb via the vagina through the cervix. It's a type of physiological security guard that lays across the opening to the cervix and prevents flow in either direction. When your body readies to go into labor, the cervix begins to dilate, and the mucus plug pulls off the interior of your body from the lining of your cervix and comes out of your vagina. Because of all of the blood-filled capillaries near the surface, the act of stretching and dilating may tear these gentle structures and that may cause your mucus plug to be streaked with blood, according to the journal.
Is your mucus plug bloody if you're ready to give birth? It's possible, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Commonly referred to as "the bloody show" a blood streaked mucus plug can mean the onset of labor. However, according to ACOG, you could still be waiting a while — anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks.
It should be noted that if you notice more than a few streaks of blood or pink-tinged mucus, that you should contact your provider, as per the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP). This could signal a problem like placental abruption or placenta previa. Complications like these are pretty rare, but it's best to err on the side of caution if you think the bleeding is abnormally heavy. You won't be the first person to call your OB-GYN about your cervical mucus plug, and you certainly won't be the last. I remember vividly when I called mine towards the end of my first pregnancy, and how sorely depressed I was to learn that I wasn't immediately going into labor.
According to AOGS, the mucus plug is fairly elastic in nature. It has to be to allow itself to be stretched in every direction to provide adequate protection for the cervix and womb. However, with the increased blood volume during pregnancy, capillaries are more flush with blood and therefore much fuller than they are when you're not baking a human. This is especially true for the area surrounding your womb and your genitalia. Because of this, when the cervix begins to stretch, and the mucus plug begins to descend, it can tear the overfull surfaces in and around where it was attached and cause blood to appear in the plug itself.
But not everyone's plug will be bloody, and not everyone will even notice that they've lost their mucus plug. According to the Mayo Clinic, some women lose the plug slowly over time and have no idea as it's happening. For the rest of us unlucky sods, it can be quite the shock to see such a sight in your underwear. Honestly, it can be shocking as heck when you feel it ooze out of your body as you're walking around. Because sometimes, you can feel it, too. It's just like you feel your period, only distinctly more viscous.
It may be bloody, it may not be, but it does mean your cervix is preparing for labor, which is a whole 'nother list of things you never thought your body could do. Our bodies — they really are a wonderland. (The sort with the Mad Hatter and bloodthirsty queen, no doubt.)
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