The mucus plug is a protective mechanism of fetal grown and development. We’ll talk about how long after you lose your mucus plug will you go into labor, what it looks like, cramping and how to tell your mucus plug from discharge.
Your Mucus Plug
What is a mucus plug?
In pregnancy, your body creates a barrier of mucous (basically some thick discharge) at the neck of the cervix.
It does it to protect the baby from whatever was to come up your vagina.
I think of it as a “cork” keeping things out of where the baby is.
STOP spending so much time looking for advice on the internet -- check out this Online Prenatal Class, where all the info is from an experienced L&D nurse. It's a game changer for couples who want to know the truth. You can even get 10% off with code PC10.
Losing Your Mucus Plug
As your cervix opens up a bit, that “cork” loosens — and it’s not being kept in as much as it was before.
Sometimes it falls out as one big chunk, or and sometimes it sort of dissolves and comes out in pieces.
It’s a good reason to wear at least a pantiliner that last month of pregnancy — these are my favorite.
What does it mean when your mucus plug comes out?
It likely means that your cervix is softening. Think of it as a bottle of wine, where the lip melts a bit in the hot sun. If the cork was hanging down, it might come out!
What does the Mucus Plug Look Like?
It looks like dried mucus and dark brown blood. It’s like your cervix creates a little dam for itself with what it has. If you really want to get grossed out (you can check it out in google images).
How do you know if you’ve lost your mucus plug?
Most people notice it as mucus with some dark blood in the toilet or after they wipe after using the restroom.
Note: It can be SUPER gross. I actually almost threw-up when I saw mine (I’d never “lost” my plug until my last baby).
Related post: Protein in your urine during pregnancy
How long after losing my mucus plug will I go into labor?
Probably in the next month…. and that is probably not the answer you were hoping for (I do have a “when will I go into labor quiz” that shares some of the other signs to be watching for).
In reality, it mostly means your cervix ix starting to open, and soften — and that’s about it.
That doesn’t mean you’re going into labor. I do have a whole post on the signs of labor.
The ACOG website makes it akin to the baby dropping (or lowering into your pelvis).
How to make your mucus plug come out?
There is NO reason to care about it coming out.
You can have a baby with a mucus plug. Or, sometimes you don’t know that it’s already come out.
This doesn’t need to be a concern at all.
Mucus plugs often come out after you have had a vaginal exam.
Can you have sex after losing your mucus plug?
Yup. You mostly need the barrier when your baby is small and developing. Once you lose it, your baby is larger and doesn’t need that protection anymore.
Cramping after losing your mucus plug
Your mucus plug falls out, often because your uterus is contracting now and then, which helps to soften & open your cervix.
So, you may have had some cramping before, and just didn’t notice it.
Also, often getting up from the restroom makes you contract, as does peeing. So, while you may cramp after losing your plug — you just should keep an eye on things to see if if turns into labor.
Not sure what you’re feeling? — I have a whole post on what contractions feel like.
Is it your Mucus Plug or Discharge?
First off, it doesn’t really matter — so I wouldn’t lose too much sleep on this one.
BUT, usually, the mucous plug is thick and brownish in nature.
Discharge is usually thinner but can have some brownish tinge to it as well.
Often, as I said, the mucus plug sort of dissolves, so you might get chunks of it mixed with regular discharge.
ALSO, towards the end of pregnancy, discharge gets a bit dicey. You might not even know if your water broke.
FAQ’s about Mucus Plugs
What week does mucus plug form?
Early in pregnancy — and throughout your first trimester, your body just somehow gathers the mucus and just “corks” off your cervix. It doesn’t just magically form by week five or something. BUT, usually by the end of your first trimester, it’s pretty solid.
Can you lose your mucus plug early?
It can come out in early pregnancy, and if you’re before 30 weeks or so, I’d probably call my doctor. It might be an indicator your cervix is softening before you want it to — it could be preterm labor (it can also be absolutely nothing, so do NOT worry if that is your question).
Related Post: When to call labor and delivery
Is there a difference between your mucus plug and bloody show?
No, mucus plugs are something that have “corked” off your uterus — it’s dried mucus. Bloody show is usually bright red and thinner in nature.
Can Mucus Plugs be Clear?
No, they are usually brownish/yellowish as they are dried mucus. If you have clear discharge, that is probably just a change in discharge as you near the end of your pregnancy
When is the mucus plug formed?
Mainly at the beginning of your pregnancy as your body is working to protect the baby.
Where is the mucus plug located?
it’s at the bottom of your uterus at the cervix — that is where the baby will come out (you can read more about cervixes)
Why does the mucus plug come out?
Your cervix has started to open, and it no longer “corks” off the end of it. Think of it as a bottle of wine, but somehow the lip of it got larger, so the cork can’t stay in — and because it’s upside down, gravity pulls it out.
Does the mucus plug smell?
Not really…. it’s just dried mucus, although it could smell a bit “fleshy” — I don’t think it’s anything too noticeable.
Can your mucus plug grow back?
I doubt it — it’s really formed in early pregnancy as a protective mechanism. That being said, as you near the end of your pregnancy you can have MANY changes in discharge, so you may just notice lots of stuff coming out — just preparing the way for that baby!
Can you slowly lose your mucus plug?
Yes, it may come out in pieces, or a little at a time — it often doesn’t come out all at once!
Why is the mucus plug bloody
You may have had some implantation bleeding, or possible bleeding for vaginal exams in early pregnancy — that all sort of collects at the cervical outlet, which is why it has blood in it.
Your mucus plug isn’t always bloody though, and to most people, it doesn’t look “bloody” (aka like a horror movie) — it looks dark brown and mucus-y.
Can they check my cervix if my mucus plug is intact
Yes, while protective, it’s not actually hard and a skilled practitioner will easily still be able to check your cervix.
Does the baby dropping make your mucus plug come out?
Not usually, but sometimes it drops because your cervix is opening — and in that case, it might allow your mucus plug to come out. Also, the increased pressure of the head above it might make it fall out.
Can you lose your mucus plug and not go into labor?
Yes, of course. As we talked about above — your mucus plug is just the cork. It may happen because you’re going into labor, or sometimes it just happens…. Don’t miss my post all about the question — Am I in Labor?
Hilary has been an L&D nurse since 2001 — and has seen people bring in their mucus plug in a Tupperware container, or take photos on their phone for us all to enjoy.
Don’t do that. The mucus plug isn’t a big deal. I’d encourage you to watch for all the signs that tell you if you’re in labor.
AND, I’d encourage you to take a prenatal class. They’re hard to get in, so, grab this online childbirth class to get it done on your own time (on your COUCH). The absolute BEST way to do it — don’t forget that code PC10 will get you 10% off!
Other posts you might enjoy:
- Sick with a cold while pregnant
- Decreased fetal movement
- Shaving during pregnancy
- Does an epidural hurt?
- When to take a childbirth class?
Be sure to grab my printable birth plan — and check out my other delivery tips below that: