Friday , 19 January 2018

The Mucus Plug and Its Role in Labor – A Picture Guide to Childbirth

There are few things that cause as much contemplation and yet avoidance in discussing labor than the mucus plug. This is very simply, the plug of mucus that fills the cervix to protect against disease and infection during pregnancy. It actually does not completely block the passage to the inside of the uterus, but it does inhibit the passage of bacteria.

Once you have lost your mucus plug, you do not need to make any special accommodations. There is no ban on having sex or taking baths simply because you have lost your plug. If you have specific questions, call your doctor or midwife, even between appointments. You do not need to save your mucus plug to show anyone, feel free to flush it down the toilet.

Be sure to talk to your doctor or midwife at your prenatal care appointments about the signs you’re experiencing at the end of pregnancy as you progress towards labor. They can help guide you into the most appropriate behaviors and actions, not to mention answer your questions.

Also Known As: Bloody Show or losing your plug

Alternate Spellings: mucous plug

Examples: I started losing my mucus plug about a week before my baby was born.

See a photo of a mucus plug.

1- Preparing for Childbirth


The ninth month of pregnancy is all about preparing for childbirth. After the entire pregnancy, you’re nearly there!

You may experience low backache, heartburn, and Braxton Hicks Contractions.
Hopefully, you have finished or will be finishing your childbirth classes to prepare for labor and childbirth.
You will still have prenatal care appointments with doctor or midwife and potentially see your doula.


Your baby’s brain is growing a lot at the end of pregnancy.
Deposits of brown fat, which will keep your baby warm after birth, are being made.
Your baby’s lungs are also developing.

2- The Mucus Plug and Breaking Bag of Waters


As you near the end of your 40 weeks, and even after 40 weeks, you may be watching for signs of labor. These signs of labor are good indicators that your baby is ready to be born.


  • You may lose your mucus plug all at once or slowly before labor begins. Sometimes you will not see the mucus plug until labor is well under way.
  • Some women notice increased vaginal discharge as labor nears.
  • While your labor may start with the breaking of the bag of waters, this is not as common as you might think.


  • You may notice that your baby feels like s/he is down lower. This is called dropping or lightening. This may not happen until labor has started.

3- Contractions During Childbirth


Contractions during childbirth are what is best known about labor. A contraction is simply the uterine muscle tightening and releasing, opening the cervix, the mouth of the uterus.


  • The discomfort or pain caused by contractions can often be alleviated by changing positions.
  • You may use relaxation, visualization, vocalization and other comfort measures to decrease the pain of contractions as well.


  • Your baby is still moving during labor. This is typically less movement than before labor, but many moms can still notice the movements that their baby is making.
  • Fetal monitoring may be used to monitor contractions as well as your baby’s heart rate.

4- How the Cervix Opens to Give Birth


As your labor progresses, the contractions of labor will change the cervix. Your cervix needs to open or dilate to 10 centimeters before your baby can be born.


  • Your labor contractions will come at regular intervals that get stronger, longer and closer together.
  • Your cervix thins out (effaces).
  • Your cervix opens (dilates).


  • Your baby moves down in your pelvis as labor progresses (station).

5- Fetal Head Molds


Contractions also help your baby’s head mold. This is how your baby is able to fit through your pelvis.


  • Movement may help your baby’s head to mold more quickly.
  • Changing positions definitely helps you with pain management of contractions in labor and childbirth.


  • The baby simply keeps moving downward towards being born in a normal labor. This is the pressure needed to mold the bones of the baby’s skull. This is what gives some babies a cone shaped head. This molding is generally slight and goes away without any treatment within a few hours or days of birth.

6- If an Epidural is Used


Some women will choose to use epidural anesthesia. You may make this decision prior to labor or during labor.


  • Will be given an IV and IV fluids prior to the epidural.
  • Will have the epidural catheter placed.
  • After the epidural has taken effect a urinary catheter may also be used.
  • Will be restricted to bed as movements are hindered. There are positions for labor that can still be used.
  • If your labor slows, interventions, like Pitocin or breaking your water (amniotomy), may be used to speed labor.


  • Constant fetal monitoring will be used during the epidural procedure and afterward.
  • Some babies will experience changes in the heart rate with any medication, the nursing staff will be watching your baby for signs of fetal distress.

7- Baby’s Head is Born


This is an intense part of labor. The baby is about to be born, there is excitement, hard work and, well, labor, to be done.


  • May need to slow pushing efforts, particularly if being coached.
  • May feel the “ring of fire” as the baby is crowning.
  • Will usually feel a great release and decrease in pain as baby is born.


  • Makes final twists and turns to be born.
  • May need suctioning for meconium, if present.
  • Comes immediately to mom’s belly or breast after birth.

8- Third Stage – Placenta


Typically everyone is so caught up in the baby that the placenta is usually only monitored by the midwife, doctor or nurses.


  • Uterus continues to contract.
  • Placenta will usually detach on its own from the uterus within 5-30 minutes.
  • Holding and nursing the baby will speed the process.
  • May be asked to push to aid in the expulsion of the placenta.


  • Breathing and crying.
  • Settling with mom, skin to skin.
  • Attempts to breastfeed.

9- Bonding with Your Baby


This time immediately after birth is a special time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your baby nurse immediately after birth. You can have your doula or nurses help you with breastfeeding, but usually laying the baby skin to skin in this newborn period is enough to get your baby seeking the breast and nursing without a lot of assistance.


  • May shiver from the birth, warm blankets help.
  • Uterus continues to contract. Nursing will help the process of involution.
  • May be excited, tired, happy and all at once.


  • Usually in a quiet alert state right after birth.
  • Best if placed directly skin to skin on mom for warming.
  • Will actively seek the breast if unhindered by clothing, medication, and age (not premature).

10- Picture of a Mucus Plug


This mucus plug came out the night before her fifth baby was born. Sometimes you will see it in a big chunk, or simply notice a large increase in mucus discharge as you get closer to your due date. It can be loose, like this one, or more tightly together. You do not need to save the mucus plug.


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