The loss of your mucus plug is an indicator that labor may be near, leading many to wonder how long does it take for labor to start once the mucus plug is lost. Learn the causes, consequences, and recommended next steps here to better understand this important stage of pregnancy.
Pregnant women create a thick mucus that plugs the cervix to prevent the fetus from exiting the uterus through the vagina. Kristin Mallon, who is a board-certified nurse midwife and the chief strategy officer at Integrative Obstetrics in Jersey City, New Jersey, says that this mucus protects the uterus from infection and keeps bacteria from getting in from the outside.
You should be able to keep this plug in place throughout your entire pregnancy; however, it will be at its most susceptible in the final weeks. According to Adeeti Gupta, M.D., founder of Walk In GYN Care and obstetrician, even mild uterine contractions can begin dilating the cervix. Hormonal changes at the end of pregnancy also cause the cervix to soften, opening further and allowing the mucus plug to be expelled.
A lack of mucus plug may be immediately apparent to certain persons (it looks like a gelatinous blob of snot). The hair might be a creamy white color with hints of red, pink, or brown. The mucus plug may be discovered during wiping, in one’s underwear, or the toilet after being lost, or it may go unnoticed.
It’s a sign that labor is about to start if you see it. When does labor typically begin after the mucus plug has been lost? These are the opinions of the specialists.
Does the Loss of the Mucus Plug Indicate the Beginning of Labor?
The loss of your mucous plug indicates labor, but it won’t start immediately. According to Mallon, “the removal of the mucus plug is usually a good indicator that labor is approaching within one to three days,” especially if there is a tiny bit of blood. It’s true that some pregnancies start weeks after the mucus plug is gone, but that doesn’t mean the rule of thumb is always wrong. Having your mucus plug expelled is an indication that labor is imminent, but it could be a while before it actually begins.
Unless your water breaks and you are in active labor, your baby is safe even after the mucus plug has passed. “Your cervix keeps making mucus to replace what is lost, and the amniotic fluid has a number of immune agents that keep protecting the baby from infection,” says Dr. Clara Ward, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist.
In the event that my mucus plug falls out, what should I do?
It’s natural to want to get out of there as soon as you realize you no longer have a mucus plug. Check for other labor symptoms or contact your doctor instead. According to Mallon, if it happens outside of business hours, you can let them know the next day or at your next scheduled appointment. For the time being, it’s best to keep an eye on how your baby is moving.
Dr. Gupta advises patients to time contractions once they begin. “You should go to the hospital when they become regular, lasting at least 30 seconds and occurring every three to five minutes.” If your amniotic sac breaks, you should also go to the hospital (commonly known as your water breaking).
The pregnant woman is the only person who should feel compelled to call their doctor’s office for advice if their mucus plug falls out before the 37th week of pregnancy. Even if this isn’t your first pregnancy, talk to your doctor about preterm labor if you lose your mucus plug before 37 weeks.
Additional Pregnancy Symptoms to Look Out for
Once your mucus plug has fallen out, you should keep an eye out for other signs of labor. According to Dr. Ward, lightheadedness or feeling like the baby has plummeted are some symptoms. Although this may cause increased pressure in the pelvic area, it may facilitate breathing.
When contractions first begin, labor may seem more like cramping or back discomfort for some women. You might feel less energized, less capable of physical activity, and more likely to develop a case of sluggishness or joint pain. Your doctor will be able to see if your cervix has dilated because of lines that appear on your buttocks.
Take it easy. Unless you are bleeding profusely, contracting frequently, the mucus is extremely foul-smelling, or you are worried that you may have broken your water, Dr. Ward advises that women who are full-term (more than 37 weeks) typically do not need to call their doctor. Worried yet? It’s safer to call, just in case.
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