On the one hand, passing the plug is one of the early signs of labour along with contractions and bursting of waters. On the other hand, in contrast to the contractions and bursting of waters, which directly indicate the beginning of labour, the discharge of the plug doesn’t mean the labour will start immediately or even in several hours. In fact, nobody can tell you how soon labour will begin after losing the mucus plug in pregnancy – in an hour, in a day or in a week. According to doctors, it’s considered normal if the plug comes out 2 weeks before labour. In many cases it passes several days before delivery, but sometimes the plug comes down only along with amniotic fluid or even can be removed by the doctor during labour.
Thus, losing the mucus plug in pregnancy means that delivery is coming, but it doesn’t mean that it’s time to rush to the hospital. If the discharge isn’t followed by the contractions and bursting of waters, then you have plenty of time to get prepared for delivery.
But first, you should make sure that your discharge is a plug, not amniotic fluid. Unlike the plug that looks like a jelly-like clot, amniotic fluid has thinner consistency, it’s more watery. The color of mucus plug can vary from clear and white to beige, brown and yellow, while the waters often have yellowish color or may be just clear. If after the examination you are not sure that this is the plug, go to the hospital urgently to find out if there is any danger for the child. Leaking of the waters tells about rupture of the amniotic sac, which can lead to fetal hypoxia or infection.
If you’re sure that this is the plug, examine it carefully for signs of pathology. An uncharacteristic color or unpleasant mucus plug smell as well as large amount of bright red blood in the discharge are also signals that something goes wrong. In this case, you should call your doctor or hurry to the hospital. If the plug has a normal color and smell and there is no evidence of bleeding or rupture of the amniotic sac, there is nothing to worry about. But soon after discharge you may feel aching, nagging pain in the abdomen and then contractions. First contractions last for about 20 seconds with 15-minutes pauses between them and then they become longer with shorter pauses – the duration of contractions reaches 60 seconds with pauses of 2-3 minutes. This is the sign labour is near, so you have to go to the hospital with all the necessary things with you.
But if there are no other signs of approaching delivery, you can calm down and only inform your doctor about the discharge, so that he or she could control the situation. Since the mucus plug release weakens the fetus protection from infection to some extent, you need to practice proper hygiene, have sex only using condoms, give preference to shower instead of bath and restrict swimming in the sea, river or other natural bodies of water. However, you may not worry about your child as the amniotic sac still protects the fetus from infection. Also it would be wise to use the time after losing your mucus plug for getting prepared for delivery, to pack things for the hospital and to gather all the needed documents.