Everything You Need to Know About Losing Your Mucus Plug

 Babylist Team Profile Photo
By Babylist Team | Updated on Sep 12, 2023
Image for article Everything You Need to Know About Losing Your Mucus Plug

Pregnancy, labor and delivery all involve some pretty weird stuff. And losing your mucus plug ranks fairly high on the list when it comes to some of the strange things you might experience before the end of those 40 weeks.

But what exactly is a mucus plug, anyway? What does a mucus plug look like, and what happens after you lose it? Evaly Long, a licensed midwife with Hummingbird Midwifery1 , says that although the mucus plug doesn’t have the most flattering name, it turns out that something so tiny actually plays a pretty big role in pregnancy and birth. Here’s everything you need to know.

What Is a Mucus Plug?

A mucus plug is a thick, jelly-like barrier between your cervix and your uterus. It begins to form in the cervix during implantation and is in place to block bacteria and viruses from entering the uterus.

If you’re familiar with cervical mucus—the fluid secreted by the cervix that also plays a big role in conception—then you already have a pretty good idea of what makes up the mucus plug. It’s a thick, jelly-like substance, and by the time it’s finished forming by around 12 weeks pregnant, it’s about the size of a quarter.

What Does a Mucus Plug Look Like?

Things got pretty literal when the term “mucus plug” was coined. So what does it look like? A mucus plug looks much like you’d imagine it would based on its name. “It can vary but usually it is clumpy and brown because of the old blood. Sometimes it can have new, bright red blood mixed in as the cervix is thinning and opening,” says Long. It’s usually pretty sticky, but can be stringy too. The average size of a mucus plug is about one ounce, or two tablespoons.

What color is a mucus plug?

There’s a wide range of normal when it comes to mucus plug color, and it tends to vary from person to person. These are all perfectly normal:

  • Clear

  • White

  • Yellowish

  • Pink

  • Light beige/brown

  • Blood-tinged in color

If you see something bright red, though, you should call your doctor right away.

When Do You Lose Your Mucus Plug?

Losing your mucus plug happens toward the end of pregnancy, usually around 37 weeks pregnant to 38 weeks pregnant and onward. It’s caused by both a rise in estrogen and from the pressure the baby’s head is putting on your cervix. It’s one of the first (and many) preliminary signs of labor. For some people, this can mean labor is imminent; for others, it may mean it’s still a few days, or even weeks, away.

How do you know if you lost your mucus plug?

Short answer here: for some people, it’s pretty obvious, and for others, not at all. And both are OK. “It will come out painlessly and is usually discovered on your underwear, a pad, or when you are going to the bathroom,” says Long.

It may come out after your water breaks. Or, it may come out gradually, and won’t look any different to you than normal vaginal discharge—and you may miss it completely. All of these scenarios are perfectly fine.

How early can you lose your mucus plug?

Since losing your mucus plug is generally a sign that your cervix is changing in preparation for labor and delivery, you’ll want to contact your healthcare provider if you notice you’ve lost your mucus plug prior to 38 weeks of pregnancy. It doesn’t always indicate a risk for preterm labor, but it may, and it’s definitely worth a call and possibly a checkup just in case.

How Long After Losing Your Mucus Plug Will Labor Start?

It’s the million-dollar question that every pregnant person wants the answer to: when will my labor start? The mucus plug can definitely provide some clues, but it’s not quite the sure thing it’s sometimes made out to be.

Losing your mucus plug is a preliminary sign of labor—emphasis on the preliminary part. It means that certain hormone levels are rising, your cervix is changing either in size or in thickness, and your body is preparing itself for labor. But when will that labor actually begin? For some women, it will happen immediately. For others, it could be hours or days or even weeks away.

What Happens After You Lose Your Mucus Plug?

Losing your mucus plug means your body is preparing for delivery, but it’s important to also pay attention to what else is going on. If you’re 38 weeks pregnant or farther and the loss of your mucus plug is accompanied by labor pain, contractions or your water breaking, it’s go time! Call your healthcare provider and get ready to leave for the hospital, because you’re about to meet your little one.

If you lose your mucus plug without any other symptoms, which is also a possibility, there’s no need to do anything, assuming you’re at least 38 weeks along and there’s nothing abnormal about the discharge you’re seeing. Just make a note to mention it to your healthcare provider at your next appointment.

Bloody Show vs. Mucus Plug

Although it sounds a bit scary, the bloody show is a normal part of preliminary labor. It can also be a part of losing your mucus plug.

Your cervix is a blood-rich organ. When it begins to dilate in preparation for birth, it can bleed, and that’s the blood that makes up the bloody show. Sometimes, that blood can mix with your mucus plug. So although the bloody show isn’t quite the same thing as losing your mucus plug, it is why you may notice tinges of blood or pink streaks in your mucus plug when it falls out.

Either way, they’re both an indication that you’ll be meeting your baby soon!

Pregnant woman holding her stomach on a bed with a plant in the background

Want evidence-based health & wellness advice for fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum delivered to your inbox?

Your privacy is important to us. By subscribing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.

Expectful uses only high-quality sources, including academic research institutions, medical associations, and subject matter experts.

  1. Evaly Long"Welcome to Hummingbird Midwifery!"http://hummingbirdmidwifery.com/.

Share via