During my pregnancy, I learned so many things about my body — many of which sounded pretty gross. My “mucus plug” and how I could lose it was definitely no exception. In addition to learning about gross things happening to my body, there was always a long laundry list of things to avoid while pregnant. Everything from food, to drinks, to even some types physical activity. So let’s combine the two, shall we? What are some things to avoid after losing your mucus plug?
When I first heard the term mucus plug, I didn’t really understand what it was. I imagined it to look kind of like a wine cork. I also knew that I was supposed to lose it toward the end of my pregnancy, but that was the extent of my mucus plug-related knowledge. So I asked Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, an OB-GYN and medical travel blogger for TwinDoctorsTV, to give a more comprehensive explanation regarding what a mucus plug actually is and what happens when you lose it.
“In response to increasing progesterone levels during pregnancy, the cervix produces a large amount of a thick mucus that forms the mucus plug,” Abdur-Rahman explains to Romper in an email interview. “The mucus plug basically functions as a barrier of sorts protecting the sterile womb from the ‘outside.’ By blocking the cervix, the mucus plug prevents bacteria from entering into the uterus.”
This critical job is so important because, as Abdur-Rahman explains, if bacteria gets into your uterus, you could get an infection called chorioamnionitis. As per the Cleveland Clinic, "In this condition, bacteria infects the chorion and amnion (the membranes that surround the fetus) and the amniotic fluid (in which the fetus floats). This can lead to infections in both the mother and fetus. In most cases, this may mean the fetus has to be delivered as soon as possible"
“Chorioamnionitis can be life-threatening for mom and baby," agrees Abdur-Rahman. "And even if chorioamnionitis does not threaten the life of mom and baby, it can cause pregnancy complications like preterm labor and premature rupture of membranes (i.e., the bag of water breaking too early)," he adds.
So when are you supposed to lose your mucus plug, and what should you avoid after it comes out? Abdur-Rahman says you’ll typically still have one until you’re about 36 weeks, because at that point, your cervix is supposed to start shortening and dilating and will “expel” the plug. If you lose the plug “at term,” i.e., at around 36 weeks, there’s nothing to avoid. However, if this happens earlier than expected, there are some things to look out for because losing your mucus plug could signal preterm labor, according to Parents. Abdur-Rahman suggests avoiding any activity that may help introduce bacteria into the uterus. So no sex, masturbation, placing an object in your vagina, or sitting in a pool or bath if you lose your plug earlier than 36 weeks. You’ll know when you’ve lost your plug because there’s typically a “bloody show” in your underwear or when you wipe, as Baby Center reported. It can potentially be pretty gnarly looking — ranging from looking like pink snot to black tar — so be warned.
In most cases, as long as you lose your plug at 36 weeks or later, you’re good to go and there’s really nothing you have to avoid once it’s gone. Anytime before that though, and you'll need to be extra careful about making sure you avoid anything that may have any chance of introducing bacteria into your uterus. At least losing your mucus plug typically means you’re almost at the end of your pregnancy journey and that much closer to holding your baby in your arms. Just give your healthcare provider a call in case labor starts up too early.
Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, OB-GYN and medical travel writer for TwinDoctorsTV
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