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Home Health A-Z Mucus Plug : What It Is, Functions, What To do If You Lose It?

Mucus Plug : What It Is, Functions, What To do If You Lose It?

Verified By Apollo Gynecologist August 30, 2022 4578 0
Mucus Plug
Mucus Plug

Overview

A mucus plug is an accumulation of mucus that collects in the cervical canal early during pregnancy. It stops bacteria and infections from entering the woman’s uterus and spreading to the baby. Women lose the mucus plug when the cervix gets ready for labour. The time between mucus plug loss and the entry into labour varies for every woman. It is a very usual and common symptom late during pregnancy.

This blog comprehensively explains mucus plug, its functions, the way to know if the body is ready for delivery, and the next steps.

What is a mucus plug?

A mucus plug is a protective accumulation of mucus that obstructs the opening of the cervix when women are pregnant. The cervix produces a thick, jelly-like fluid to keep the area moist and protected during pregnancy. It prevents infections from reaching the baby.

Mucus plug loss during pregnancy can signify impending labour. The mucus plug is released into the vagina as the cervix dilates wider in preparation for childbirth. The time separating mucus plug loss and the entry into labour differs for each woman because some who pass a noticeable mucus plug enter delivery within hours or days. In contrast, others may not enter delivery for some weeks.

What is the function of the mucus plug in pregnancy?

The mucus plug performs the following functions:

  1. Provides protection – the mucus plug protects the pregnant woman’s uterus and the fetus . The mucus at the cervical entry prevents any external substance such as bacteria from entering the uterus. 
  2. Signals the softening of the cervix – when pregnancy extends beyond the 37th week, mucus discharge can be an early sign of labour. The cervix tends to dilate and soften in this period to allow the baby’s birth.

How do women know if they have lost their mucus plug?

Since most women experience vaginal discharge throughout pregnancy, it can be challenging to establish if the mucus plug was released from the woman’s cervix. However, unlike normal vaginal discharge, the mucus plug can look stringy or thick and jelly-like. It can also be clear or slightly bloody (red, brown, or pink) in colour.

There are many reasons for women to lose the mucus plug when they are pregnant. In many instances, the mucus plug is discharged due to the cervix’s softening, indicating the cervix’s thinning and widening to prepare for delivery. Subsequently, as a result, women may lose the mucus plug since it is not attached to their cervical lining. 

During a prenatal appointment, the doctor examines the cervix by performing a cervical exam which can stretch or irritate the cervix. It can result in the falling out of the mucus plug. Women can also lose the mucus plug during sexual intercourse as it can detach from the cervix and fall out. 

The mucus plug loss does not necessarily indicate imminent delivery. However, it often shows the changes that the woman’s body and cervix are going through so that they are well prepared for the baby’s birth. The cervix ultimately opens and softens so the baby can pass through the cervical canal during delivery.

When should women call the doctor?

Women must call the doctor when they observe excessive bright red blood in the discharge of the mucus plug. Heavy bleeding can hint at a pregnancy complication, including placenta previa or placental abruption. They must also call the doctor when the mucus plug is green or foul-smelling, which can hint at a potential infection. 

What should women do after losing the mucus plug? 

Women must take steps depending on the mucus plug’s appearance and the pregnancy’s duration. When they notice a mucus plug or what they think is the mucus plug, they must correctly describe the size, colour, and overall appearance of the mucus plug to the doctor since these descriptors may help the doctor decide the next steps.

Pregnant for less than 36 weeks

The doctor may be concerned that it is too early for women to lose the mucus plug during their pregnancy; they suggest immediate examination of the baby and the cervix to rule out early labour. 

Pregnant for more than 37 weeks

When women are more than 37 weeks pregnant mucus plug loss should not be of any concern. Women can inform the doctor if they do not show any other concerning symptoms. The doctor can also instruct women to observe signs of labour, including contractions that become more frequent and stronger. Women can wear a panty liner or pad for protection if the mucus plug continues to discharge.

Conclusion

The mucus plug loss can be a positive indication of the progression of the pregnancy. Women will probably lose their mucus plug during or after the 37th week of pregnancy. While mucus plug loss is not a cause for worry, it is always better to call the doctor if they have any questions or concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How is mucus plug discharge different from regular discharge?

There is an increased vaginal discharge which is normal during pregnancy. Vaginal discharge is generally thin and white or light yellow. However, the mucus plug discharge is thicker and more jelly-like. It can also be slightly bloody (red, brown, or pink) in colour.

What are the side effects of losing the mucus plug?

There are no side effects from mucus plug loss since it is a normal part of pre-labour. The other labour symptoms can also accompany mucus plug loss.

Will the mucus plug regenerate?

The mucus plug can regenerate in the woman’s cervix. They can initially lose parts of the mucus plug but recover it as the body constantly creates mucus when pregnant.

Is it possible to dilate and still not lose the mucus plug?

Women can dilate to a certain extent without losing the mucus plug. However, the mucus plug will come out eventually. All pregnant women will lose the mucous plug before the baby is delivered.

Verified By Apollo Gynecologist
The content is verified by our experienced Gynecologists who also regularly review the content to help ensure that the information you receive is accurate, evidence based and reliable

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