Losing Your Mucus Plug: Is Labour Imminent?
Any woman who has been pregnant and attended a few antenatal appointments (or done some research online) would have some idea what a mucus plug is and what its function is in pregnancy.
However, if this subject is still somewhat vague to you, then this post right here will shed light on the subject.
Here’s what will be covered:
- What is a mucus plug?
- How is the mucus plug formed?
- Does losing your mucus plug mean labour is imminent?
- Should you be worried if your mucus plug is expelled with no sign of labour?
- What happens when you lose your mucus plug?
- What happens if you lose your mucus plug early?
What is a Mucus Plug?
A mucus plug is usually a thick blob of mucus that covers the cervix and keeps germs and other pathogens from getting into the uterus to harm the baby.
It is a clear blob that could also assume different colours ranging from white, yellow and beige to brown. It could also come out solely as mucus or be tinged with streaks of brown or red blood.
This mucus contains antibodies which neutralize any germs that tries to get into the womb.
It stays at the entrance of the cervix until the 37th or 38th week when you are termed and your baby is ready to be born.
Related: 5 Myths about Mucus Plug Debunked
How is the Mucus Plug Formed?
Your mucus plug starts to form in the first few weeks when you become pregnant. After fertilization, the fertilized egg(now called a blastocyst) moves to implant itself on walls of the uterus (where it will continue its growth and development).
During this time, your cervical glands also release mucus that continue to coagulate at the cervical canal, sealing it and progesterone, one of the current active hormones in your system during this time, works to thicken this mucus. All of this happens within 12 weeks, during which time the mucus becomes thick enough to keep bacteria and viruses out.
Does Losing Your Mucus Plug Mean Labour is Imminent?
During the last days or weeks leading up to your labour, your mucus plug gets expelled, signifying your baby is ready to enter the world. Your cervix shortens and softens as it prepares the cervix for the coming labour.
The mucus plug falls out due to two reasons:
- There is usually a rise in your estrogen levels at the end of the pregnancy that thins the mucus plug.
- As your baby grows his head pushes at your cervix, putting pressure on it.
The mucus plug should fall out after the 37th week when you are termed and baby deemed safe to come out. Most women will lose their mucus plug by the 37th or 38th week, although it has been known to come earlier for some women ( you should contact your doctor if lose your mucus plug coming before the 37th week).
You will notice this plug when you go use the bathroom, in your undies or on the bed. It could also come out gradually over the course of a few days without you being aware that’s what’s happening.
On average, the mucus plug should come out two weeks before labour starts, although a few women report losing their mucus plug 2-3 days before going into labour.
Losing your mucus plug is a top sign your labour is imminent and can should start any day soon.
Should You be Worried If Your Mucus Plug is Expelled with No Sign of Labour?
For women expecting to go into labour immediately the mucus plug comes out, it can get a little worrying when days pass with labour yet to begin. They worry if their baby is safe and not at risk of an infection.
However, research has shown a woman has no cause to worry about her baby being at risk of an infection, as the amniotic fluid shields the baby; unless your water breaks, your baby stays protected,” says Clara Ward, M.D physician with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth/UT Physician in Houston, Texas.
What Happens After You Lose Your Mucus Plug?
It is a natural instinct to want to report at the hospital once you lose your mucus plug, however, this isn’t exactly necessary and could be a waste of time.
You should, instead, monitor your body from then onward to see if contractions begin afterwards and how long they last. You should follow the 411 rule and head for the hospital when your contractions become four minutes apart, lasts for up to a minute and have been consistent for the past one hour.
Going to the hospital without waiting to check for contraction might see you being turned back, especially if your labour end up waiting a few days to a few weeks before starting.
What Happens If You Lose Your Mucus Plug Early?
You should see your doctor immediately if you lose your mucus plug before you are termed or before you turn 37 weeks as this could be a sign of a preterm labour.
An early mucus plug loss is typically caused by factors like a cervical scan, sexual intercourse and other such natural causes and while you can still carry your baby to term even with this loss, the risks are usually somewhat great as you could have a miscarriage (for a pregnancy still in its very early stages) or a preterm labour.
A preterm birth is one of the complications of pregnancies and places your baby at risk of vision problems, low birth weight, difficulties breathing and underdeveloped organs. It also makes them susceptible to a few serious health complications as they grow.