Before pregnancy, most young women have quite a vague image about childbearing and giving birth to a baby. Of course, they can imagine themselves with a cute rounded belly, but still, know absolutely nothing about some of the physiological processes.
Thus, for example, they have to find out what pregnancy mucus plug is and what they need it for as well as the most important thing – why everyone is so worried about the time when it comes out. Of course, expectant mothers start wondering about the last question by the end of their pregnancy, and doctors often have to deal with such issues as: “I’m 38 weeks pregnant, the mucus plug has come out, what should I do?” or “What will happen if I don’t notice the plug coming out?”
And there is more: a lot of women listen to disturbing stories about various complications and begin to worry: what to do if the mucus plug comes out and they still won’t be going into labor? Let’s discuss each one of these issues in particular.
What is pregnancy mucus plug?
Pregnancy mucus plug is a thick mucus clot similar to an egg white which blocks the cervix of a pregnant woman. The plug forms under the influence of pregnancy hormones by the end of the first month of the gestation when the embryo implants into the uterus: at this time the cervix becomes soft, swells and is filled by cervical mucus secreted by the cells of the cervix. Each ovulation makes the mucus thicker, creating a clot, dense enough to clog the entrance into the uterus.
As any other physiological process, the formation of the pregnancy mucus plug has its own goal: to defend the female body (which is very sensitive during this period) from various infections while, for example, the future mother is swimming in a lake or pool.
However, at the end of pregnancy, the female organism actively produces the hormone estrogen. It causes the mucus to soften, and the plug comes out before labor starts – those women who have already given birth know that it’s a symptom of the upcoming labor.
Sometimes the pregnancy mucus plug comes out because of gynecological examinations – the uterus reacts to the intrusion by the contraction of smooth muscles, pushing out the plug. It can come out as a whole – a single sticky clot about 1-2 tablespoons in volume (or 0.6 inches in diameter) – or in parts during a few days (as vaginal spotting similar to those at the beginning or at the end of a monthly period).
What does a pregnancy mucus plug look like? Sometimes it’s quite hard to tell the plug apart from ordinary vaginal spotting because its viscosity and color can vary. The mucus usually has yellow or pinkish color or is completely transparent. Some women say that it resembles a jellyfish.
There can be some blood – it’s not a reason for concern: blood in the pregnancy mucus plug appears because of the small blood vessels breaking due to the raising pressure during the uterine dilatation. But if you’ve noticed a lot of blood in the mucus plug it can be a sign of placental detachment. Anyway, better be safe than sorry: consult a doctor, especially if the plug has come out too early.
How does the plug come out before childbirth?
By the way, what’s the appropriate term for pregnancy mucus plug to come out? Of course, it depends: it’s possible that you won’t even notice this moment because the plug often leaves the female body with amniotic fluid. That’s why some women ask if the mucus plug always comes out before childbirth. But it still can detach in advance.
The doctors think that it’s normal for the pregnancy mucus plug to come out not earlier than 2 weeks before childbirth.
The plug coming out is one of the three main signs of the upcoming labor, the other two being the contractions and breaking the water. But, as we’ve already mentioned, it can take a few hours as well as a few days between the moment of the mucus plug coming out and the beginning of labor. Anyway, you should tell your gynecologist that the plug has come out – you’ll be examined and, perhaps, immediately signed in in a hospital ward.
The pregnancy mucus plug most often comes out during a morning shower or an ordinary visit to a bathroom: you won’t even manage to notice anything unusual, but you’ll feel something coming out of your vagina. If it’s not your situation, you’ll see whitish, yellowish or pinkish substance on your underwear or bedsheets.
The pregnancy mucus plug has come out: what should I do?
So, how does the pregnancy mucus plug come out before labor? It’s not so easy to detect, that’s why the future mom needs to pay attention to her sensations. If you’re in late pregnancy terms and the due date is coming soon, pay attention to slight bursts of pain, muscle tension and nagging pain in the lower abdomen.
That’s how the women going into labor describe the process of the mucus plug coming out before the birth. After that, you’ll possibly feel dragging and pulsing pains similar to those during menstruation. These pains usually transform into the contractions. In this case, you’re definitely going into labor.
But there is no reason for hurrying to the hospital: make sure the contractions are regular and intense – when the time interval between them becomes 10 minutes long, you’re ready to go. And while the interval between the contractions is longer, and the pain isn’t as intense as during labor, it’s better to prepare for your stay in the maternity hospital: for example, make sure you’ve packed everything you’ll need, check all the important papers, take a warm shower.
But not a bath! Remember: since the moment the pregnancy mucus plug has come out of your body, your organism is less resistant to infections of the birth canal (by the way, it’s one of the arguments against water birth). Of course, that doesn’t mean your baby is completely defenseless!
They still have a fetal bladder to protect them. That’s why, even if the plug has come out and you’re not going into labor, you shouldn’t panic. Just don’t take baths, go to the swimming pool or lake. And pay more attention to your personal hygiene, change your underwear and bedsheets more often.
And if you still have sex with your partner in spite of such a late pregnancy term, you will have to abstain after the plug comes out. Infections can easily get into the birth canal from the vagina.
So, in the case of the pregnancy mucus plug coming out you don’t have to worry: you have enough time to prepare for childbirth and give the last instructions to your family.