While it one of those miracles in life, pregnancy isn't all that glam. There is an icky side to it that not many like to talk about, but we should because those "eww" moments in pregnancy serve a purpose. They help keep your pregnancy healthy. One example: the mucus plug.
The mucus plug is clear, sticky, and a gelatin-like substance when it is discharged from your body. It acts like a cork in your cervix throughout the nine months of pregnancy. Like the amniotic sac, which protects your baby inside your womb, the mucus plug acts as a barrier to protect your uterus from bacteria.
The mucus plug is the reason why it's perfectly safe for a pregnant woman to go swimming or take a non-warm bath in the tub, or have sex (with your doctor's go-ahead, of course). Because of the mucus plug, water from the beach or pool or semen will not reach your baby in your womb. So don't be afraid of swimming; after all, it is one of the best exercises for expecting women.
Most pregnant women lose their mucus plug by the 37th week of pregnancy or later. For many preggos, it happens at the same time they experience the bloody show, or when you start having a red, pink or brown discharge — a sign that labor is about to begin.
"For active labor to start, your cervix should begin to dilate. When your cervix starts to open, there will be the passage of blood, or what we doctors call a 'bloody show,'" Dr. Marie Victoria Cruz-Javier, an ob-gyn, explains.
It is worth noting that all pregnant women will lose their mucus plug, but not all will experience a bloody show.
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Some preggos lose their mucus plug because of a cervical exam or during sex, especially if you're 37 weeks and beyond. It doesn't mean that you should avoid these activities (again, unless your doctor advised you to do so).
If you lose your mucus plug early, your body will continue to make cervical mucus to prevent infection. Your baby will still be safe, and you can have sex or swim. You can lose your mucus plug at 37 weeks and still not be in labor. When this happens, the mucus plug regenerates and you can lose it again in 39 weeks.
Your mucus plug gets displaced naturally once your cervix starts to ripen and open, or once it starts thinning and softening. The mucus plug by itself can appear as one blob-like mucus or it can be expelled in parts, depending on how fast or slow your cervix dilates.
According to What To Expect When You're Expecting, the time between the mucus plug gets dislodged and your labor will vary from one pregnant woman to another. As we said, it can happen at the same time or experience their first contraction a few hours later. Other moms-to-be may wait a day or two, or even weeks before other signs of labor will manifest.
If your mucus plug gets dislodged early and it has no sign of blood in it, don't panic. You may not even have noticed that you lost your mucus plug. It can drop in the toilet bowl or appear in your tissue as you wipe down there without you knowing it is your mucus plug. But if you do notice any discharge, always tell your it to your doctor on your next prenatal visit.
Even if you do lose your mucus plug early, it will not have any effect on how your labor will progress. What you should watch for is a significant change in your vaginal discharge before the 37th week especially if the discharge suddenly becomes bright red or watery. Alert your doctor so she can rule out any infections, or instruct you to head to the E.R.