If you’ve heard of the bloody show, you probably have some questions about what’s possibly the most dramatic-sounding of pregnancy terms. And who could blame you? With a name like that, it’s bound to raise some questions. But there’s good news —the bloody show is a normal part of pregnancy, and isn’t actually all that bloody (phew).
Learn about what exactly the bloody show is, what it looks like, and what it means for impending labor below.
What Is the Bloody Show?
The bloody show is a small amount of blood that’s released from the vagina as your body prepares to go into labor. The blood originates from your cervix, which is a blood-rich organ. As you begin to dilate—one of the first signs that labor is on the horizon—that dilation, or expansion, may cause your cervix to bleed. “Not everyone has a bloody show,” says Evaly Long, a licensed midwife with Hummingbird Midwifery1 . “Not experiencing this is not a sign that anything is wrong.”
What Does the Bloody Show Look Like?
Although the name implies something pretty dramatic, the reality is that the bloody show isn’t much of a show after all. (Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief right there.) The bloody show is a small amount of blood. “It can vary in amount from birth to birth but should be no more than about a tablespoon,” says Long. It can be light or dark brown, red, or even white tinged with red streaks. Long says if you see more than that amount, you should contact your provider.
The color of the bloody show all depends on whether or not it happens alongside losing your mucus plug, the thick barrier of mucus between your cervix and your uterus that develops during pregnancy. If the two happen simultaneously, the bloody show will often resemble blood-streaked mucus. If they happen separately, it can be a brighter red in color, resembling period blood.
Keep in mind that it’s also possible not to notice your bloody show at all. For some women, the bloody show happens after active labor has already begun, so you may be a bit too busy, to say the least, to even notice it. Others may just miss it completely—and that’s totally fine. “Everyone’s bodies are different,” Long says, “Not experiencing [the bloody show] doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your body or your labor.”
How Long After the Bloody Show Does Labor Start?
Hoping your bloody show is your ticket to immediate labor? It might be, but not necessarily. Like many things pregnancy-related, the time between when you see the bloody show and when labor begins can vary from person to person. The bloody show can appear minutes, hours, days, or even weeks before labor officially begins. It’s a great tip-off that things are moving in the right direction, but it doesn’t mean you should be heading to the hospital quite yet.
How Long Does the Bloody Show Last
Again, this varies. Some people will see the bloody show all at once, like noticing it in your underwear or seeing it on the toilet paper when you wipe. For others, it’s more of a gradual process as the blood comes out little by little. Either way, it’s good to contact your healthcare provider if you think you’ve had your bloody show, as they may want to bring you in for a cervical check.
Contractions, Cramping, and the Bloody Show
Since it’s one way of your body signaling that it’s getting ready for labor, the bloody show is often preceded or followed by cramps or contractions. It’s not uncommon to feel cramps and then see your bloody show, or have it happen the other way around—you’ll start feeling cramping that’s then followed by your bloody show. The same holds true for contractions. These are all signs that your cervix is dilating and your little one is getting ready to make an appearance.
Difference Between Bloody Show and Mucus Plug
According to the Cleveland Clinic 2 , the mucus plug is a collection of mucus that forms in the cervix during the early weeks of pregnancy and serves as a protective barrier against bacteria and infection. Losing your mucus plug and seeing your bloody show can be related, but they’re not quite the same thing.
Think of it like this: both losing your mucus plug and the bloody show are triggered by your changing cervix as it begins to dilate and prepare for labor. That means that although the bloody show and losing your mucus plug are in theory mutually exclusive, they often go hand-in-hand.
For many pregnant people, the mucus plug serves as a means to transport the blood that’s built up behind it from the cervix. And although you’re technically experiencing two different things, it’s why mucus plugs are often tinged with blood or pink streaks when they fall out.
But both are signs that your baby is soon to be on the way!