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Losing you mucus plug sounds as magical as it is… but what does that surprise when you wipe or look in the toilet mean. Besides a possible gag reflex, what else is going on — and what does it even mean if your mucus plug has come out — should you go right to the hospital? Let’s find out!
But first, how am I an expert on mucus plugs? (frankly, not my favorite thing to be an expert at….)
Hi — I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I have talked and seen mucus plugs for hours. I may even (reluctantly) call myself a mucus plug expert.
Also, I just want to be really clear, when I saw my own mucus plug I gagged in my toilet. Mucus in general is one of my least-favorite bodily fluids…. 🤢🤢🤢 So, let’s get this over fast so we can move on … k?
How far dilated are you when your mucus plug comes out?
Most often your cervix has softened and thin, you may be 1 cm or more. Although, you can’t really know until you get a vaginal exam.
But, it’s more complicated than that. Let’s talk more about what it actually means when your mucus plug comes out.
Can you dilate without losing your mucus plug?
Yes, and often people lose their mucus plug without even knowing it. It may come out while you’re using the restroom and the toilet paper covers it and you never notice. You can dilate, and have your baby without ever knowing (or losing) your mucus plug.
Every now and then I’d see some of the mucus plug come out with baby too — so can also just hang out inside…. so fun! 🙂
BTW, this is just ONE of the signs you need to be watching for about labor. I have a whole chapter on all of those in here.
What is the mucus plug?
It is basically just like it sounds like.
It is a collection of mucus (and other things from your vagina — including blood, skin cells, etc) that corks up the end of your uterus (which is called your cervix).
Think of your uterus as basically an upside down bottle of wine. Although, the mucus plug is more like the wax seal over a bottle of wine…. so maybe the analogy isn’t that great.
What happens when you lose your mucus plug?
It comes out in the toilet or when you wipe. That’s about it. Nothing else really happens.
You may already be having contractions, and in that case they may continue — or, they could also stop.
The mucus plug is a sign labor will likely be soon, but that’s about it.
What does a mucus plug look like?
I actually just watched a video online and I would have to say a lot of the things the person showed are more like increased discharge.
The mucus plug is normally pretty firm. It’s not normally what you’d blow from your nose. Because it’s been there for months it’s dried up and congealed a bit. 🤢🤢🤢 I know, I know — it’s gross.
However, parts of the mucus plug can come out bit by bit, or it could come out and hang out in your vagina for a while and mix with the discharge….
It’s magical. It looks magical. There, I said it.
How long after losing mucus plug will labor start?
Probably in the next few weeks.
I’ve actually had patients come into the hospital with their mucus plug (in a Tupperware — please don’t do that) saying they were in labor because they’d lost their mucus plug.
That just isn’t the case. Most often labor will start in the next week or so, but not always. It’s just one of those signs. It mostly shows us that your cervix is softening…
Back to the poor wine bottle analogy. It’s like the glass at the top got so hot it started to open-up and thin out — Obviously, with nothing holding the cork “in there” it falls out.
The good news for you is that your baby is also protected by the layers of your uterus, plus your amniotic sac.
And before you ask, no — losing your mucus plug isn’t particularly a sign your water is going to break (but it’s still not a bad idea to have a towel or puppy pad at work, on your couch or in your car to be sure — and now is definitely the time to get a waterproof mattress pad for both you or baby).
Does everyone lose their mucus plug?
No, I would guess that the majority of people do, but most don’t realize it because it either comes out in chunks slowly or they just don’t notice it in the toilet after they use the restroom.
If I lose my mucus plug early on am I having a miscarriage?
It can be really scary for anything to come out of your vagina in early pregnancy. The mucus plug slowly builds up during pregnancy, and if you happen to lose it early on it will continue to re-build itself (not sure how the whole laws of physics work to make it happen, but it does).
It isn’t unusual to have some changes in your vaginal mucus discharge, so it could be just that — but I also think it’s worth mentioning to your doctor that you think your mucus plug came out at your next appointment.
Of course, if you’re having contractions or other changes in your pregnancy you need to call your doctor right away.
What does it mean if you’re losing the mucus plug gradually?
It just mean it didn’t come out all at once. Honestly, they can be kind of big — so it’s not surprising that they don’t come out all at once.
Things to avoid after losing mucus plug
You can always talk with your doctor, but most often they don’t have any recommendations of things not to do (unless you were already on pelvic rest or something).
Of course, you’re never supposed to use a tampon or a cup during pregnancy. But if you’re wondering about pool time, or a warm bath or sexy time with the husband, most often all of that is OK — but any questions, please do ask your provider.
Remember, you still have the bag of water surrounding your baby and your cervix is still likely fairly thick and keeping that baby up out of the sexy-time zone.
Can your mucus plug re-generate?
Yes. I think your body continues to somehow use a low-force pressure of some sorts to bring all those cells to protect baby in the womb.
How can you speed up labor after losing your mucus plug?
Oh man, that’s the million dollar question, right? If you’re past 37 weeks and you lose your mucus plug you’re wondering how to keep that cervix softening and opening up?
Remember that your body needs 3 things to get on board for labor to happen:
- The baby — studies are showing that babies release something once their lungs are ready to breathe air that may initiate labor
- Your uterus — they think your uterus releases something when it’s on board (and maybe getting too stretched to tell your body to get this baby OUT
- Your brain — if you’re so nervous about labor you may be preventing yourself from going into labor, which is why I always recommend taking one of these that makes it all simple and less scary.
I love it when Alyssa said The Online Prenatal Class for Couples helped her to laugh at what she once thought was scary. That’s my goal. Labor doesn’t have to be scary, and am here to help you realize that (together).
But, if you just want my best tips on how to get baby out sooner rather than later, grab Going Into Labor Made Easy where I got more into detail on how those 3 parts get together, as well as things to eat and do to help labor move along.
BTW that guide is also included into the Bump to Bassinet Bundle in case you want to both get prepared AND get that baby out!
- About the Author
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice.
She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.
She is also the curly head behind the website Pulling Curls and is the creator of The Online Prenatal Class for Couples — the #1 hospital-based prenatal class on the internet.