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What Is A Mucus Plug? What Does Losing Your Mucus Plug Mean During Pregnancy?

Mucus plug or cervical mucus plug is characterised by a large, thick piece of mucus with gelatinous consistency that blocks the opening of the cervix during pregnancy and is shed shortly before or during labour.

Studies say that a mucus plug serves as a 'gate-keeper' and helps prevent infections from reaching the growing fetus. It also may help prevent preterm labour. Pregnancy is almost impossible in the absence of a mucus plug. [1]

In this article, we will discuss details on a mucus plug. Take a look.

Why Is Mucus Plug Important?

Pregnancy causes the cervix to secrete a thick jelly-like fluid to keep the area protected and moist and unwanted pathogens and infection to move within the uterus.

The mucus plug acts as a physical barrier in separating the vaginal from the intrauterine tract. It has viscoelastic properties that help prevent viral replication and inhibit bacteria and larger molecules from entering through the plug. [2]

Apart from that, it plays a great role in preventing the risk of preterm birth, which is linked to a robust inflammatory response in the cervical mucus and amniotic fluid.

Image Source: Pampers.com

What Does Losing A Mucus Plug Mean?

Losing a mucus plug means labour is soon to begin. As the delivery period come near, the cervix begins to dilate, soften, thin and start getting wide and open. This leads to the dislodging of the mucus plug from the cervix, which is then, pushed out from the vagina. This is known as losing a mucus plug.

However, the period between losing the mucus plug and the start of labour may vary as some pregnant women may go into labour as soon as she loses the mucus plug while some lose it much early before their delivery date and still carry the baby for some more weeks.

Losing a mucus plug early than 37 weeks of pregnancy is an indication of preterm labour. Consult a medical expert in such a situation. [3]

How To Identify The Mucus Plug?

Some of the characteristics of mucus plug include:

  • Thick jelly-like mucus.
  • Off-white and clear mucus.
  • Can be slightly bloody or have brown, red or pink colour.
  • Maybe one or two inches long.
  • Odourless
  • Maybe one or two tablespoons in volume.

Note: Experts say that mucus plug comes out either as a whole at once or in small amounts over time. The prior is noticeable while the latter often goes unnoticed. Also, a small amount of blood in the mucus is common while heavy bleeding indicates complications and need immediate medical attention.

Image Source: Freepik.com

What Are The Signs Of Labour After Losing Mucus Plug?

Some of the signs of labour after losing mucus plug may include: [4]

  • Water breaking or breaking of the amniotic sac that surrounds the baby.
  • Thinning of the cervix.
  • Dilation of the cervix.
  • Increased contractions.
  • Lightening or movement of the baby to the lower pelvis area.

What Is Braxton-Hicks Contractions Or False Labour Pain? Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

Other Reasons That Cause Removal Of Mucus Plug

Apart from preparation of delivery, the removal or falling out of mucus plug is mainly caused due to sexual intercourse. Though sexual intercourse during pregnancy, at specific positions, is completely safe, if it's causing loss of the mucus plug before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it could be risky for the baby in terms of preterm labour.

Another reason is cervical checkups; during pregnancy checkups or appointments, some tests can irritate your cervix and cause mucus plug to fall off.

Are There Any Side Effects To Losing A Mucus Plug?

Studies say that there are no life-threatening side effects of losing a mucus plug as it is a normal part of delivery. Losing it early than the delivery period can be of some concern, however, it can be easily be managed by medical experts.

Can A Mucus Plug Gets Regenerated?

Yes, if due to some reason, the mucus plug falls out before 37 weeks of pregnancy, there are chances that it may regenerate. This could be because of the immunological response of the body that causes the hormones (especially progesterone) to regenerate the cervical mucus to protect against harmful pathogens. [5]

To Conclude

Losing a mucus plug is an indication of the progression of your pregnancy. Also, it always does not mean that delivery is about to happen. Consult a medical expert if you lose the mucus plug before 37 weeks of pregnancy or if the mucus discharge is accompanied by excess blood.

How dilated are you when you lose the mucus plug?

Losing the mucus plug does not always indicate the start of delivery or dilation of the cervix. However, if you go into labour soon after losing the mucus plug, the dilation of the cervix could be around 10 centimetres.

What are the signs of losing your mucus plug?

There are no specific signs of losing the mucus plug. If it comes out in one glob, you can notice it in your underwear or toilet paper. The mucus plug will be thick, large, jerry like and maybe slightly bloody.

How do you know labour is coming soon?

Though falling out of mucus plug indicates the arrival of labour in some ways, it cannot always be the case. Some of the primary indications of labour include dilation and thinning of the cervix and an increase in contractions.