What is a Mucus Plug?

The mucus plug is a thick column of cervical mucus which sits in the cervical canal during pregnancy, essentially forming a blockage. The mucus plug stops bacteria from getting into your uterus, and helps to keep your uterus sterile during pregnancy. Before the birth, you will lose your mucus plug, allowing the baby to pass through the cervix during labour.

Your mucus plug is made of a sticky, clear mucus, like nasal mucus, but often thicker. Towards the end of the pregnancy, you may start to lose some of your mucus plug. Some women lose the entire plug in one go, but others report the process taking up to a few days. The mucus plug is odourless but may not be the most attractive sight to behold.

What is a bloody show?

A bloody show is simply another name for a mucus plug. You may find that the mucus appears pink or brown tinged with blood, and this is why it is commonly known as a bloody show. There is nothing to worry about if your mucus plug is tinged with blood, in fact it is quite normal. It’s also normal to have a clear plug, you may also have heard it called a ‘show’.

Passing your plug

Passing your mucus plug is not always a clear indication that labour is imminent. In fact, if you pass your mucus plug over 24 hours before labour starts, your body will create a new mucus plug to take its place. Some women lose their mucus plug weeks before labour begins, however, it does mean that your cervix is starting to prepare for the birth.

Though it doesn’t mean the onset of labour will happen any minute, it does mean you should start preparing for labour. Is your hospital bag packed? Have you finished the nursery? Now is the time to finish off any loose ends around the house, and get ready to welcome your baby within the next few weeks.

You may notice you have passed a small amount of mucus after a vaginal exam or after having sex, this is usually nothing to worry about.

When to tell your healthcare provider

You can mention the plug to your healthcare provider at your next appointment, but there’s usually no need to contact them specially for this reason. However, you should contact your healthcare provider if:

  • you notice blood-tinged mucus before your 37th week of pregnancy
  • the mucus plug is bright red
  • you pass more than two tablespoons of mucus

Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice.  All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2018. All rights reserved.

The Three Stages of Labour Explained

Talking about childbirth sometimes seems like a secret code: what are the three stages of labour, anyway?

The first stage of labour

This is usually the longest stage of labour, lasting on average between six and 20 hours for first time mums. If you’ve given birth before, your first stage could be between two and 10 hours, although these are just averages and of course individual labours vary wildly.

During the first stage, your cervix softens and begins to dilate. Your contractions may last between 10 to 40 seconds at first, but this will increase as labour progresses. The first stage of labour officially starts when you are 4cm dilated and experiencing regular, strong contractions.

You should time your contractions to keep track of how regular they are. Going for a short walk, soaking in a warm bath and practising your breathing techniques are all good ways to spend the beginning of labour. Find a position you feel comfortable in, be that kneeling, squatting, leaning, and rock your hips with each contraction.

Your contractions will continue to increase in strength and frequency. Once you think labour is established, you should contact your healthcare provider. Once you arrive at the hospital, your healthcare provider will monitor your baby’s heartbeat from time to time to make sure he isn’t in distress.

By the end of the first stage of labour, your cervix will be fully dilated and you will be ready to push.

The second stage of labour

By this point, your cervix is dilated a full 10cm, and it is time to start bearing down to deliver the baby. Your baby is about to make the journey out of your uterus, through the birth canal and out into the world. The pushing stage of labour can last from just a few minutes up to around two hours. To help you get to the finish line, you could try:

  • three short pushes with each contraction, this is said to be more effective than one long push
  • an upright position – let gravity do some of the work for you
  • bear down – imagine you are trying to push out a very big poo
  • exhale – breathe out steadily during each contraction

By the end of the second stage of labour, you will have delivered your baby. When the third stage starts, you should be cuddling your baby on your chest for some skin to skin bonding.

The third stage of labour

Now that your baby has been born, the placenta is no longer needed. During the third stage of labour, you need to deliver the placenta.

When your baby is born, the umbilical cord will still be connected to your baby and to the placenta still in your uterus. Some parents choose to clamp the cord immediately, but others choose to wait for the cord to stop pulsating first. This pulsating is the passage of blood from the umbilical cord to the baby and back again.

Some women choose to deliver the placenta naturally, and others choose to have an injection to speed up the process. This is a personal choice and entirely up to you. Once the cord has been cut, the umbilical cord will be clamped close to your baby’s navel. In time, this will shrivel up and fall off, leaving behind your baby’s beautiful belly button.

Written by Fiona (@Fiona_Peacock), mother, writer and lover of all things baby related.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.