A mucus plug is literally a plug of very thick mucus lodged in the cervix (or opening of the uterus) that is a physical and antibacterial barrier between your baby and the world. The mucus plug is created by the cervix. For the majority of pregnancy, the mucus plug stays in one place until just before and/or during birth. The mucus plug is distinctly different than “regular” discharge—it’s thicker and there’s more of it, says Michael Cackovic, MD, an ob-gyn at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. Normal vaginal discharge varies through your regular cycle, but hormone levels during pregnancy are different and more constant, which creates a different type of mucus that turns into the mucus plug. Many women wonder, what does a mucus plug look like? I’m here to answer that question!
Most women lose their mucus plugs in the weeks or days leading up to their labor. While losing your mucus plug is a sure sign of labor, it doesn’t mean labor is going to happen immediately. In my personal experience, I had a baby in my arms within 24 hours of losing my mucus plug, but I’ve talked to many women who have lost theirs 2-3 weeks before having their babies!
Your mucus plug is not only a physical barrier between your baby and the world but it also has antibacterial properties that actually kill harmful bacteria in the vagina (source, source) further protecting baby.
Why Does the Mucus Plug Come Out?
The mucus plug comes out as a result of your cervix dilating and effacement happening. If you’ve lost your mucus plug, it means something is progressing with your cervix. It also can be a result of care providers doing vaginal exams that can sometimes disrupt the cervix.
FUN FACT: Your mucus plug can actually regenerate if it’s lost too early before labor begins!
Not everyone will notice losing their mucus plug. Many women simply wipe it away and don’t notice it along with the other discharge their losing towards the end of their pregnancy. And if you haven’t seen it, that doesn’t mean labor isn’t on it’s way. Many women lose it during the labor process!
So What Does it Look Like?
What color is it? What exactly should you be expecting? From the Bump:
As you can imagine, it’s mucus-y! It’s also thick and may be slightly bloody, Cackovic says. “The mucus plug color is usually white, yellowish, beige or brown, or any variant thereof,” he adds. “It can have a red or pink tinge associated with blood.” (Whelihan likens it to a “thick ball of snot.”) Since the mucus plug is designed to “plug” your cervix, it’s about the same size: approximately four centimeters long. It has the volume of about two tablespoons (in case you really want to know).
Enjoy a beautiful image of my third and last mucus plug + some bloody show:
This particular mucus plug is accompanied by a lot of bloody show and I lost it the morning that I gave birth to my third baby. With my second child, I lost my mucus plug the day before and IT WAS A MESS. I was wearing loose undies and I though for sure my water had broke due to the sudden dampness of my drawers. A trip to the bathroom proved me wrong and I found myself completely covered in watery mucus. It was not my favorite day, but it did ultimately result in a cute baby sooo….sometimes bloody show really is a show. And sometimes it’s not!
Can you force out your mucus plug? I wouldn’t try. If your midwife or doctor happens to during a stretch and sweep-awesome! But I would leave that work to the professionals.
Mucus Plug Warning Signs
If you experience any of the following, contact your care provider to gather more information and discuss your options.
- Scheduled cesarean + loss of mucus plug
- Loss of mucus plug before 37 weeks
- Foul smelling mucus plug
- Loss of mucus plug accompanied by bleeding