What happens when you lose your mucus plug?

Does having a 'show' or losing your mucus plug mean you're about to go into labour? And what does a mucus plug look like, anyway?

pregnant woman looking down

When you lose your mucus plug, also known as having a ‘show’ (or a ‘bloody show’ – because it’s sometimes streaked with a little blood), you may see some jelly-like discharge in your knickers. Or if you’ve been having a wee when it happens, you’ll see it in the toilet or on the loo paper when you wipe.

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It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re about to go into labour: your baby’s birth could still be days, or even weeks, away.

What does a mucus plug look like?

It’s mainly clear but maybe with some cream, yellow or pink-coloured elements, and can also sometimes be tinged with small streaks of brown or red blood.

It’ll also have a thick, gel-like consistency and it won’t come apart easily. Mums on our forum have variously described it as stringy, slimy, jelly, like egg white – even like snot!

Here are a couple of pictures of a show, one from forum mum-to-be Becca1986123 and other from BMayJ, so you can see how it looked for them:

cervical mucus plug

You can see from the pictures that the amount of mucus that comes out can vary a lot. That’s because you can lose your plug all in one go (above, right) or in stages (above, left).

If you lose it in stages, you could just see lots of little ‘globs’ over a period of time, like Haleigh: “It was just a snotty stringy blob and then [bits of] light pink.”

Or you could maybe find you just have a couple of shows, of differing sizes – like LH86: “With my first baby, I had a few globs [in the morning] and then at lunchtime a massive one with blood in.”

Does a mucus plug smell?

Like other substances that come out of the vaginal canal, there can be a mild smell, says Wendy Weig, Independent Midwife at the south London Birth Rites Midwifery Practice.

“People have different ideas of what smells are,” she adds. “So I’m wary of using too much description. I don’t want people to worry it theirs doesn’t smell a particular way.”

What exactly is the mucus plug?

“The mucus plug seals and protects your cervix during pregnancy,” says midwife Wendy. “It’s a layer of cells produced by your cervix that help prevent bacteria from entering your uterus (womb).”

Because it’s a collection of cells that your body creates, it has no defined sizes (we all make different ones!). And, like any other mucus in the body (the stuff in your nose, for example), it can form, come away, and then reform.

And when it comes away, it can come away whole or partially.

When is it normal to lose your mucus plug?

It’s something that usually happens in the later stages of your 3rd trimester but it’s impossible to put a more specific timeframe on it.

Some women will have a show at 37 weeks, or even earlier; others may not lose their mucus plug until they’re in active labour and actually pushing out their baby.

And just because you had a show at a particular week in your 1st pregnancy, it’s doesn’t mean it’ll happen again at the same week in your next pregnancy – as forum mum ILOVEMYGEEK2 can testify:

“With my 1st daughter, I lost my plug about 10 hours before she was born, and I’d been having contractions for most of the night before hand. This time however, I am 30 weeks today and I lost some of my plug last Friday and lost a bit more on Sunday!”

How long after losing your mucus plug do you go into labour?

No one’s going to be able to tell you that for sure, we’re afraid.

“Losing your plug is not any sign of labour at all,” says Wendy, “because it can drop out and reform. That could happen 5 times!

“There aren’t any simple answers. X doesn’t necessarily mean Y. And that’s how it is with pregnancy. But, for a few women, yes, retrospectively, they can look back and say, ‘Oh my labour did start after my show’.”

What do I need to do when I lose my mucus plug?

Nothing. Just wipe and flush as normal. There’s no need to contact your GP or midwife.

What if I lose my mucus plug early on in my pregnancy?

This on its own, should not be any concern, says Wendy. “It’s just going to reform. It doesn’t mean a thing. Nothing’s happening.”

If, however, your show is accompanied by other symptoms, such as cramps or bleeding or breaking waters, then you should contact your GP or midwife.

What if I don’t lose my mucus plug before I go into labour?

That’s perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. “Your body will naturally excrete anything it needs to when it needs to,” says midwife Wendy. “So it’s not uncommon to lose your mucus plug during labour.”

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