There are certain signs to tell whether or not it is time to go into labor. One of them is the mucus plug coming out of the vagina. The mucus plug coming out does not necessarily mean that labour is about to begin, but recognising it is important in preparing for labour.
What is a mucous plug?
A mucus plug is a lump of thick, jelly-like discharge that builds up in your cervix during pregnancy and blocks the opening. This discharge has certain characteristics that distinguish it from a normal discharge.
Your baby grows in a fairly sterile environment inside the womb. The function of the mucous plug is to protect the cervix and the foetus from germs and infections from the vagina or outside.
The mucus plug prevents the spread of germs inside the womb and blocks their entry through the cervix. If these germs enter the womb, it can increase the risk of premature delivery of the baby in the womb. Studies show that such infections play a role in about 25 percent of premature births.
When does the mucous plug come out?
When the cervix begins to dilate or enlarge for childbirth, your discharge sac, or mucus plug, is released into the vagina. Usually, the cervix begins to dilate after 37 weeks of pregnancy. So usually, after 37 weeks of pregnancy, the mucus plug in the cervix comes out through the birth canal.
However, the release of the mucus plug may delay the onset of the labor process. In some cases, the mucous plug may come out even after the labour process begins. However, if, for some reason, a mucous plug comes out of the vagina before 37 weeks, it can be a sign of premature labor. So if this happens, consult a doctor immediately.
Causes of mucus plug discharge
Causes of mucus plug discharge during pregnancy include:
Dilation of the Cervix: As the time of delivery approaches, the cervix begins to dilate. As the cervix dilates, the mucus plug descends from the cervix and into the vagina. As a result, the amount of vaginal discharge suddenly increases compared to normal. In many cases, the entire mucous plug or discharge may come out at once. 
Abnormalities of the cervix or cervical insufficiency: If you have an abnormality in your uterus or cervix, it is often unable to hold the fetus or baby inside the uterus. In such a situation, the mucus plug in the cervix or the baby inside the uterus can sometimes come out prematurely.
Intercourse: Intercourse during pregnancy is not harmful. However, there is a risk of mucous plug discharge due to sexual intercourse in late pregnancy. After 37 weeks, the mucous plug usually does not cause any problems. But if it happened before that, you should consult a doctor.
Cervical examination: During pregnancy, a cervical examination can sometimes inadvertently cause a lump of discharge to come out. However, this is usually not the case. So there is no need to worry too much about it.
What does the mucus plug look like?
A mucus plug looks a bit like a normal discharge. Its color can be clear, like water, white, or yellow. But in some cases, it can be light pink or have some redness with white. This is because when the cervix begins to dilate, there can often be some bleeding that mixes with it.
If the discharge is bright red instead of light red or pink or appears to be mixed with more blood, contact your doctor immediately. Bleeding can be a sign of a more serious problem (such as premature ejaculation or placental abruption).
In some pregnant women, the entire mucus plug comes out all at once. And in many cases, the discharge comes out gradually with time. As a result, many people may not notice the mucus plug coming out. But there is no reason to worry.
Difference between mucus plug and normal discharge
It is normal to have some vaginal discharge throughout your pregnancy. This discharge is usually thin and white or yellow. On the other hand, the mucus plug that comes out as the cervix dilates during labour will be much thicker and more voluminous.
What to do when the mucous plug is out
If discharge occurs after 37 weeks of pregnancy, then there is no reason to worry. The release of the mucous plug can be followed by active labor starting days or weeks later. Again, the mucous plug can come out during the delivery process. So it is better to be calm and aware and wait.
Even after the mucus plug has passed, your cervix continues to discharge. The discharge from your cervix after the mucus plug has passed helps to maintain the protection of the unborn child. So you can live a normal life—even have sex—in such a state.
However, the colour, smell, and density of the mucous plug should be noted. If the colour of the discharge is redder than usual, it can be a sign of vaginal bleeding. If it is more yellow or green than usual or has a bad smell, it can be a sign of an infection.
If the mucus plug comes out before 37 weeks, it can be a sign of preterm labor. In this case, contact the doctor immediately. If necessary, the doctor may advise you to take complete rest until delivery.
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