During your pregnancy, your body experiences a number of changes as it makes a home for your baby. Other than the normal pregnancy symptoms that you have already heard about, one of the many changes that happens is the mucus plug. During your pregnancy, your body creates a mucus plug as a barrier at your cervical opening. This plug is designed to keep your baby within your body safe from the bacteria that exist outside of your body. As long as you have a healthy pregnancy without any complications, your mucus plug will remain in place until it is almost time for you to deliver your baby.
What Exactly Is a Mucus Plug?
Doctors and midwives have been through dozens or hundreds of pregnancies. They often assume that expectant mothers already know what a mucus plug is and how it protects the baby. Because of this, many doctors forget to inform their patient (you) what the mucus plug is.
During pregnancy and your normal menstrual cycles, your body operates a self-cleansing mechanism. Cervical mucus is designed to wash out bacteria, skin cells and other impurities from your vaginal cavity. At the same time, it also helps to create the right pH for sperm to thrive and encourages a healthy vaginal flora.
When you are pregnant, your body needs an extra line of defense against the outside world. With this in mind, it creates a plug of mucus within the cervical canal. It operates just like any other plug by keeping things out. Bacteria and germs are kept away from your baby so that your baby can grow safely during your pregnancy.
While most mucus plugs look fairly similar, there are always slight variations in appearance. Unless you already know what a mucus plug looks like, you may not be able to tell if you have lost yours. When you lose your mucus plug, you may notice streaks of blood and solid masses that look gel-like coming out of your body. These gel-like masses could be pink, green, brown, clear or yellow.
Interestingly, your mucus plug may not always be the same. If you have been pregnant before, your mucus plug for this pregnancy could look differently than the mucus plug from your last pregnancy. Mucus plugs can vary in their looks between different women and different pregnancies.
Why Do You Have to Lose Your Mucus Plug?
It sounds like something terrible—after all, if your mucus plug is supposed to protect the baby, why would you ever want to lose it? Don’t worry! In most cases, losing your mucus plug is just a sign that birth is going to happen soon.
Once your mucus plug is dislocated from its spot in your cervical canal, it indicates that your cervix is ripened and starting to dilate. Your body is basically preparing for birth to happen. For the baby to come out, the mucus plug has to be out of the way since it was originally a barrier between the baby and the outside world.
While the mucus plug is generally lost when your body is preparing for birth, there are other reasons why it may be dislodged. Sometimes, a vaginal exam or sexual intercourse can cause the mucus plug to become dislodged. If this happens, you may notice bloody looking discharge leaving your body. If you lose your mucus plug because of sexual intercourse or a non-birth-related reason, you should call your doctor to make sure that it is not going to be your body.
For the most part, losing your mucus plug is just an indication that your body is ready to go into labor. If you are supposed to go into labor and have not lost your mucus plug yet, do not panic. It is possible that you already lost the mucus plug and just did not notice the unusual discharge. Some women may also keep their mucus plug until they are actually in labor. Every woman is different, so relax and keep counting down the days until your baby can enter the world!
How Can I Tell If I Am Losing the Mucus Plug?
In some cases, the discharge is so light that women do not realize that they have lost their mucus plug. There are some ways, however, that you can tell if you are losing the mucus plug. Keep an eye out for:
1. Color Changes
Mucus plugs will generally cause your vaginal secretions to be darker than they normally would be. There is no “right” color for the mucus color to be. It can be yellow, green, red or dark brown. Unless you are experiencing heavy bleeding, the red colors are probably not a sign to be concerned about.
If you are within a few weeks of your expected due date, keep an eye on your cervical mucus. You will most likely lose your mucus plug within a few weeks of your expected due date.
3. Consistency Changes
At the start of your pregnancy, your cervical mucus will most likely be slippery and thin. When you lose your mucus plug, the cervical fluid will have a stringy, thick consistency. If you track changes in your cervical mucus, you will easily be able to tell when the consistency has become stringy and thick.
4. Blood in Your Mucus
Your normal vaginal discharge is white or clear in color. When you lose your mucus plug, you may see slight traces of blood that look red or pink in color. As you approach your due date, your body is even more likely to release bloody discharge.
When Will I Lose My Mucus Plug?
For your baby to enter the world, your cervix has to open up enough for it to leave your body. Your cervix dilates and becomes thinner. Meanwhile, your mucus plug is dislodged and released from the birth canal. Once you lose your mucus plug, it could be several hours or even several weeks before the baby actually arrives. Most women will gradually see their mucus plug dissolve in the last few weeks before they deliver. If you experience bloody mucus before you reach your 36th week, you should talk to your doctor immediately to make sure that there is not a problem with your pregnancy.