Mucus Plug: What does a mucus plug look like?
A key sign your body is getting ready for birth is when you lose your mucus plug. But what does it look like and how do you know if you have lost it?
Editor / March 12 2019
What does a mucus plug look like?
One clear and early labour sign is the passing of your mucus plug - this is also known as a 'show' or a 'bloody show'. It's completely different to your waters breaking.
The mucus plug is a thick substance made of mucus and cells from the cervix that covers the opening of your uterus during pregnancy. The mucus plug has been blocking your cervix since early pregnancy to help prevent infection.
As your cervix prepares for labour, the mucus plug comes away and it will pass through your vagina around the time of your due date.
It can come out all at once, or in small amounts. You may notice a heavy discharge, or a vaginal discharge streaked with red blood in your underwear or when you go to the toilet.
What is the purpose of the mucus plug?
The mucus plug protects your cervix from infection throughout your pregnancy. It prevents bacteria from entering the uterus or womb. Every woman has one.
When does your mucus plug form and how big is it?
Your mucus plug starts to form when you first become pregnant and the glands in your cervix secrete mucus, but it doesn’t reach its full size until you’re about 12 weeks along. It usually stays in place throughout your pregnancy until you begin to dilate before labour.
Since the mucus plug is designed to “plug” your cervix, it’s usually about 4cm long and there is roughly two teaspoons full of mucus in the plug.
What does your mucus plug look like?
When you see the mucus plug, you'll notice it is different from “regular” discharge that most women get - it’s thicker and there’s a lot more of it.
It may be slightly bloody. “The mucus plug colour is usually white, yellowish, beige or brown, or any variant thereof,” Dr Michael Cackovic told The Bump. “It can have a red or pink tinge associated with blood.”
Losing your mucus plug might happen when you go to the toilet, or you might find it in your underwear. It's important to remember that they do not all look the same!
Here are some examples, shared on-line, by other women.... (apologies if you are squeamish)
When do you lose your mucus plug?
Usually, you lose your mucus plug after 37 weeks. It is possible to lose your mucus plug earlier, but if that happens call your doctor or midwife immediately - it could be a sign of very early labour and you could be putting yourself at risk of infection.
If you think you might have lost your mucus plug early or you aren’t sure, talk to your doctor too. If you can, keep it in a small pot and take it along to show your health care provider.
What happens when you lose your mucus plug?
In late pregnancy, your baby should settle downwards into your pelvis, ready to enter the world. Doctors and midwives will often tell you that your baby's head is engaged. Sometimes this is called “lightening”, because you'll feel some relief from the pressure on your stomach and lungs as your baby moves down.
When your baby is engaged, your body will produce the hormones (prostaglandin) that stimulates your cervix to ripen. Ripening means that your cervix softens and shortens in readiness for labour.
This causes the mucus plug that has sealed the entrance to your womb to slip away and come out.
It's important to remember that losing your mucus plug does NOT necessarily mean you are in labour. Your labour may not start for hours or even days
However, your 'show' and losing this vaginal discharge plug, could also mean that labour has started. Early labour, is when your cervix starts to open to prepare for the actual birth process, and it is when you can feel some mild contractions - like period cramps or a low and persistent backache.
How do I know if I've lost my mucus plug?
Some women never realise they have lost their mucus plug, while others feel it immediately. Both are compltely normal.
Can you make your mucus plug come out?
If you’re past your due date, it’s understandable you want to speed up labour and losing your plug definitely means you are heading in the right direction, but trying to remove your mucus plug is not going to be possible or help!
Your mucus plug only comes away from where it has sat when your cervix dilates.
Frances Sheen has been a magazine and website journalist & editor for the last 20 years - both in Australia and the UK. She's appeared on countless TV and radio shows to discuss parenting and launched her own social media parenting brand. She's the mum of two little girls and juggles that with a busy working life.