Here's How Your Vaginal Discharge May Change Right Before Labor

by Cat Bowen

The contents of your underwear is never so closely scrutinized as it is when you're forever months pregnant and you're ready to be done with the eternal hell of the third trimester. You've heard of the bloody show, and you may have heard about losing your mucus plug. Truthfully, none of it sounds like a particularly good time for you or your underwear, but you need to know what your discharge looks like before labor. Because your leakage is looking a bit altered.

It can be shocking for first-time moms to watch the metamorphosis of their vaginal discharge throughout their pregnancy. Not only is there more discharge present during those 40 weeks, but it can be markedly different from a woman's normal, everyday discharge, according to Britain's National Health Services (NHS). Early pregnancy discharge is pretty similar to the discharge a woman notices during certain phases of her menstrual cycle, but somewhat more abundant in nature. As the pregnancy progresses, so do the alterations in the texture and quality of the woman's vaginal discharge. Later on, the NHS noted that in the very last stages of pregnancy, it can become tinged with blood, or even have a jellylike consistency. This happens during the loss of the mucus plug that blocks the cervical opening, and signals oncoming labor.

Describing anything that plops out of your body and lands in Victoria's Secret's finest as "jellylike" sounds a bit horrifying — and that's because it is. It's not scary or even disgusting, but the stains that it creates are as permanent as the stretch marks that streak under my belly button. It's also highly inconvenient because you're never really sure when it's coming. The NHS simply noted it happens during "the last week of pregnancy." I gave birth at 38 weeks. To say that I was unprepared for the blood-tinged gelatinous discharge I experienced is putting it mildly. I was shocked, awed, and highly irritated. There went my leopard print boy shorts.

During my first pregnancy, I was also a little bit scared. While I had heard of the bloody show, I didn't really internalize what that meant. According to The Mayo Clinic, the content and quality of said discharge varies widely from patient to patient. It can be watery or milky, blood-tinged or not, but one thing is usually the case — there's plenty of it. However, they noted that if it's not just a tablespoon or so of blood in the jellylike mucus, if it's more like a period, you need to contact your provider immediately.

Here's the kicker — it doesn't have to happen all at once. According to Parents, when you lose your mucus plug, it doesn't always come out all at once. It can dribble out in fits and starts like an extreme runny nose. That means you might have hours or even days of this happening, and your best defense in this case is a good offense. So stock up on the extra large pantyliners. Trust me, no matter how much you're thinking is going to come out of your vagina, it can always be more.

One thing that experts agree on is that if your discharge is liquid and soaking your underwear, if it doesn't smell like urine, and there's just a ton of it, you've probably sprung a leak in your amniotic sac, and you need to get checked out. It sounds alarmist, but it's really best just to give your OB-GYN or midwife a call to see what their opinion is. It might be nothing — you might just be one of those women who produce a ton of discharge — but it's better to know. Otherwise, RIP cute panties. Discharge happens.