While there aren't very many ways to predict when, exactly, you'll go into labor, there are a few signs to watch for when you're near your due date. One thing women are told to watch for is when they lose their mucous plug. But what exactly is a mucous plug? And how can you prepare for labor once you've lost yours? Every pregnancy is different, so your experience will likely differ from someone else's. But knowing these signs and what to look for can help prepare you for what's to come!
What is a mucous plug?
The mucous plug acts as sort of like a cork in your cervix for the duration of your pregnancy. It seals the opening of your cervix, and prevents bacteria from entering your uterus. It's just one more way your body protects the fetus during pregnancy.
What does a mucous plug look like?
Well, the name is actually pretty self-explanatory! Your mucous plug will look like a gelatinous glob of sticky or stringy mucus or discharge. It's usually clear, although it can be pinkish or blood-tinged. You may notice it after it's come out completely, or while it's still being expelled. You shouldn't attempt to pull your mucous plug out though, as you don't want to risk infection.
How long after you lose your mucous plug before you go into labor?
It would be great if losing your mucous plug was a sign of imminent labor, right? But, as with anything that has to do with pregnancy and childbirth, there's no one size fits all right answer. While losing your mucous plug IS a sign that your body is preparing for labor, it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen right away. Some women lose theirs weeks before they actually go into labor, while for others, it happens right before.
What to do after you lose the mucus plug?
First of all, don't panic! Losing your mucous plug is a completely normal part of preparing for childbirth. If your mucous plug is normal in color (clear, pinkish, or slightly bloody) and you're not experiencing any other symptoms of labor, like ruptured membranes or contractions, you can just go about your day and mention it to your doctor at your next appointment. However, if you suddenly begin bleeding, your discharge suddenly turns bright red, or the amount of discharge is more than roughly two tablespoons, call your doctor right away as you could be experiencing symptoms of a pregnancy complication like placenta previa or placental abruption.