The changes that a woman’s body goes through while pregnant are phenomenal. But then, the miracle of creating and nurturing another human being inside your body is quite a special experience. One of the things that a pregnant woman’s body creates is the Cervical Mucus Plug, which acts as an extra layer of protection for the baby.
We know it by a different name though. “Are you seeing your ‘show’ yet?” was one question I got asked regularly by my doctor and mom, as I neared my due date, while pregnant the second time. I guess they asked because I looked ready to pop.
My doctor would examine me and after feeling the first twin’s head firmly lodge in my cervix, would in addition ask if I was not feeling any contractions. As for my mom, she just wanted me out of my obvious misery, the tired look on my face back them was epic. It looked like the pregnancy was going to last forever.
Years back, my mom had explained what the ‘show’ was; a blood streaked mucus like thing, and most importantly that it signaled that labour is about to start. On the day, I gave birth, I was attended by another doctor, who had asked the same question, hoping to get a yes/no answer, given the fact that I had experienced labour before. But honestly, I did not know. It was when I was doing a urine test for protein that plenty of the mucus plug was discovered in my urine. Which pretty much put paid to any plan I had of going home and coming later. I had no plans to give birth that morning.
You see, as having had a baby before, I was more likely to go into labour sooner after seeing my ‘show’, than someone who had not had a baby before. Probably because my cervix had done the job before and would call on that experience to do a faster job, any other time called on to do so, than a fresh cervix, just feeling its way through the whole labour process, which is why it can take up to a week for some first-time moms to feel any labour contractions, after seeing their ‘show’.
The doctor gave me two to three hours to start feeling contractions, but before the time was up, the babies were already out. Forget contractions! It had been a case of fast and furious. Now, for my sister, she sees her ‘show’, which often heralds intense contractions lasting for hours.
Interestingly, to me and my sister, the ‘show’ (cervical mucus plug) is just a harbinger of labour pains, more so for her than I, but it is more than that. It acts as an extra layer of protection for the baby in the womb.
Now, what is this cervical mucus plug? Most women, especially TTC moms, are already aware of the Egg White Cervical Mucus, which often signals ovulation. At the time of ovulation, the mucus changes and acts as a protective path for sperm to travel safely. However, if an egg is fertilised and implants in the uterus, the continued secretion of high levels of estrogen causes the cervical glands to secrete more cervical fluid.
This fluid accumulates in the cervix and solidifies, forming a seal called the mucus plug (show), covering up the whole cervix. The plug adds an extra layer of protection for the foetus throughout pregnancy, as it protects not just the baby, but also the reproductive organs from invading bacteria and other pathogens.
Towards the end of pregnancy, the cervix begins to ripen and soften, preparing for labour. This can happen weeks or hours before labour begins, there is no definite way of knowing how long this process would take, 5 minutes, 5 hours or even weeks, it all depends on your body. As the cervix begins to change, some of the mucus plug may come away.
The mucus plug is usually a clear or cloudy creamy white colour. However, it can be tinged with pink, red or even brown, like my mom had described it and how it had come out in my urine test. This is due to small blood vessels breaking when the cervix begins to thin and dilate. The blood gets caught in the mucus plug and then, it becomes the ‘bloody show’.
The consistency of the mucus plug can vary, again, your body make-up at work. It might be like a jelly, or stringy or even a sticky discharge. When the plug begins to come away, it can be in a continuous discharge or it can actually resemble a plug.
The off beat truth is not all women actually see their mucus plug until they are well into labour. If I hadn’t done that urine test, a few hours before birthing the twins, I probably would not have seen it. I’m sure there was a mucus plug the first time too, but everything had happened so fast then, all I saw, when I was examined, was blood.
Apart from the mucus plug coming apart on its own, sometimes, having sex can cause it to appear and it’s not uncommon to find worried women going to the hospital, because there’s something wrong when they notice a bloody show after sex in the late stages of their pregnancy.
Also, a vaginal examination to check on the cervix can disturb the plug too, especially if you are in the late stages of your pregnancy. It’s however, a good sign that the cervix is really opening up in preparation for your baby’s grand arrival.
However, it is not such a good nice; if you are nowhere close to the end of your pregnancy. Sometimes, moms-to-be report that they have lost their mucus plug before they are due, or early in pregnancy.
Although doctors say, in many cases, this is nothing to worry about, as it could happen occasionally and that your mucus plug coming away isn’t necessarily a sign that labour is imminent. However, if you’re worried, or have any other signs of labour before 36 weeks, pack your bag and call your doctor.
From creating a good environment for the sperm to meet Madam Eggy, to protecting baby and uterus from infections, the cervical mucus is a double function fluid. Here’s to another miracle to the thankful for.
Sending you loads of hugs and strength for the 9-month journey.
Join the conversation with any of our TTC and Pregnancy Groups here