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Bloody Show and Labor

During pregnancy, there can be many different types of fluids that come out of the body. There is white or clear discharge coming from the nipples, cervical mucus changes, discharge that occurs during pregnancy and, at the end of pregnancy, women often look for fluid indicating that the amniotic sac has broken or a bloody show. The bloody show and labor doesn’t necessarily go together because you can have the bloody show several days before actually going into labor. It just means that the cervix is thinning and might be dilating a little bit.

How Are Bloody Show and Labor Related?

When women think of the bloody show, they actually mean the discharge of a mucus plug that is usually a little bit bloody. It means the cervix is getting prepared for labor. The mucus plug is there during the entire pregnancy and serves the purpose of blocking bacteria from entering the uterus and causing infection during the pregnancy.

Why Bloody Show Happens

The mucus plug is referred to as a bloody show because it is often pink, brown or red in color. The cervix has a large blood supply and it can easily bleed. As the cervix dilated, the plug inside the cervical opening gets loose and the blood vessels located in the cervical tissue will break and begin to bleed. This is the blood you see as part of the bloody show. The bloody show is part mucus and part blood and, if it comes out all at once, it is pretty obvious.

The Time Between Bloody Show and Labor

If you pass a mucus plug at the end of your pregnancy, it means that the cervix is beginning to open up in preparation for the delivery. The actual labor could begin within hours, but sometimes, it can be days or weeks before you actually go into labor.

The mucus plug can fall out all at once or can gradually be released from the cervical opening so that the woman may not recognize that the cervical plug is actually letting go. If you see a large mucus plug, you need to know that this is not dangerous and is a normal part of the pre-labor period. Bloody show and labor are not necessarily closely related, but you can experience this phenomenon sometime before you go into labor.

Other FAQs About Bloody Show and Labor

Whether or not you see the bloody show, the cervix is usually thinning out at the end of the pregnancy and there will be increased mucus as a result. Here are some interesting facts you should know about bloody show and labor:

What Does the Mucus Plug Look Like During Bloody Show?

Your mucus plug can be completely clear or it can be tinged with blood or pink in color. It is often sticky or stringy when it comes out all at once. The mucus plug may not be noticeable because many women already have increased vaginal mucus, especially during the end of pregnancy.

What to Do When Having Bloody Show

If your bloody show is clearly visible, it doesn’t mean you need to go to the hospital. You should, however, seek your doctor’s advice if you have a bloody show and the following things happen at the same time:

  • There is more than one tablespoon of bright red blood with the mucus.
  • You see your mucus plug and you are not yet 36 weeks’ gestation.
  • You are feeling cramps that feel very painful.
  • You have begun to have uterine contractions every 4-5 minutes apart.
  • You have other symptoms you can’t explain along with your bloody show.

Excessive bleeding is especially concerning because it can mean you are having a placental abruption or placenta previa, which are things the doctor should know about right away. If none of these negative symptoms have occurred, you can just remain relaxed and pay attention to other symptoms you might have that indicate labor is about to start.

Besides Bloody Show, Are There Any Other Signs of Labor?

1. Baby “Drops”

This is especially noticeable in the first pregnancy. Instead of feeling the baby up under the ribs, the baby settles into the pelvis. It will be easier to breathe but you will feel a heavy sensation in the pelvic area from the head in the pelvic brim.

2. Braxton Hicks Contractions Increase

The contractions you have been having mildly for weeks now become more painful and regular as labor approaches. The pains may feel like menstrual cramps at first, but they gradually spread up the uterus so you feel them all over your abdomen. The Braxton Hicks contractions can become painful and sometimes you can count them. If it is true labor, the contractions will strengthen and will become closer together. This is when you start counting them and consider going to the hospital.

3. Cervix Changes

A few weeks before the birth of your baby, the doctor will notice changes in your cervix. It will begin to soften and the Braxton Hicks contractions will start to let the cervix thin out. It may begin to open up a little bit. If this isn’t your first pregnancy, the cervix may open a couple of centimeters before you actually go into labor. If this is your first pregnancy and you are at term, you might be only one centimeter dilated and labor may still be days away. Expect a vaginal examination during your last few prenatal visits to the doctor, which can identify changes meaning that labor is coming soon.

4. Water Breaks

Even if bloody show and labor are not close together, when your water breaks, you have to have your baby within 24 hours or infection will set in. When the water breaks, you may notice a tiny trickle of clear fluid or a large amount of water coming from the vagina. When this happens, talk to your midwife or doctor. Regular contractions can precede the breaking of the water in most cases, but sometimes the water breaks and there is no labor. If there are no contractions and your water has broken, the doctor may elect to induce you in order to get labor started.

5. Other Signs

There are other symptoms you might have that mean labor is imminent. Here are a few:

  • Increased urination. The baby’s head is usually sitting on the bladder at the end of pregnancy so you will find yourself needing to urinate more often.
  • Backache. When the baby drops, there will be more pressure on your back and your pelvic bones. The pelvic ligaments and uterine ligaments will be stretched to the maximum.
  • Diarrhea. The active hormones around the time of birth will result in stomach cramps and looser bowel movements. This is nature’s way of giving more room for the baby’s head to pass through the pelvis.

If you still have questions about bloody show and labor, and other labor signs, watch the video below: 

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