Bloody Show and Labor

There are no perfect ways to predict precisely when your labor will begin. Even if you start noticing early labor signs, the birth of your baby can still be days or even weeks away.

Your body begins the preparations for labor as long as one month before you will give birth, so you’ll notice new symptoms as you get closer to your due date.

What is a Bloody Show?

The bloody show occurs when you pass the mucus plug. If your cervix starts significantly effacing or dilating as your labor time nears, you may pass the mucus plug. This is a small amount of thickened mucus that sealed your cervix off while you were pregnant.

The mucus plug can come out in just one lump, or through increased vaginal discharge over a few days’ time. This mucus can be tinged with red, brown or pink blood, which is why it was named the “bloody show”.

It should be noted that having a vaginal exam or sexual intercourse can disturb the mucus plug, which may result in a discharge tinged with blood. This doesn’t mean labor is starting soon, however.

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How Are Bloody Show & Labor Related?

When you think of the bloody show, it relates to the cervix beginning to prepare for labor. The plug has served its purpose throughout your pregnancy – that is, keeping bacteria from being able to enter your uterus and cause infection.

Why Does the Bloody Show Happen?

As your cervix begins to dilate, the mucus plug inside its opening becomes loose. The blood vessels in your cervix will begin bleeding. This is the bloody show. If the plug comes out all at one time, it will be very obvious to you what has happened.

The Time that Passes between Bloody Show & Labor

If your cervix expels the mucus plug, it means it’s preparing for delivery. Your delivery could, in fact, begin within hours after the bloody show, but it could also be days or even weeks before labor begins.

The bloody show will be more obvious to you if the whole plug is passed at one time. If it is released more gradually, it may not be as noticeable. Remember that the mucus plug passing out is not a dangerous thing, and is expected in the period that precedes labor.

Other Labor & Bloody Show FAQ’s

Whether you see the bloody show or not, your cervix thins out as the end of pregnancy gets closer. Increased mucus should be expected. Here are several interesting facts about labor & bloody show:

What does your Mucus Plug Look like During the Bloody Show?

The mucus plug may be clear, or pink in color, tinged with blood. It may be stringy or sticky if it comes out at one time. You may not notice the mucus plug if you have already had increased vaginal mucus, particularly as you near the delivery date.

What should you do when you have the Bloody Show?

If it’s easy to see your bloody show, this doesn’t mean you need to head right to the hospital for delivery. Consult with your gynecologist if you have your bloody show and these things also happen simultaneously:

  • You see your mucus plug but are not yet at 36 weeks into pregnancy.
  • There is over one single tablespoon of very red, bright blood along with the mucus.
  • You begin feeling uterine contractions at four to five minutes apart.
  • You have very painful cramps.
  • You have other types of symptoms that you can’t explain at the same time as the bloody show.

Excessive bleeding is always concerning, since it could mean that you are in the process of a placenta previa or placental abruption. These are things your gynecologist needs to be notified about, right away. If you have not experienced any negative symptoms, remain relaxed and pay close attention to any other symptoms you could have that would indicate imminent labor.

Are there other Labor Signs, Besides the Bloody Show?

  1. Your Braxton Hicks Contractions will Increase

The non-labor contractions you may have felt mildly for a few weeks are now more regular and painful as you approach labor. They may have felt at first like menstrual cramps, but they will then spread gradually up your uterus, until the pain covers more of your abdomen.

If the Braxton Hicks contractions become more painful, and you are able to count them, this may indicate impending labor. This is the time to begin counting them, and be ready to go to the hospital.

  1. Your Baby will Drop

This is particularly noticeable in your first pregnancy. Rather than feeling your baby under your ribs, you’ll feel him settle into your pelvis. This makes it easier for you to breathe, but you’ll feel heavier in the abdomen, from his head in your pelvic brim.

  1. Your Water Breaks

Even if your bloody show and your labor aren’t close together, you need to have your baby within 24 hours of your water breaking or infection may begin. When your water breaks, you might notice a trickle of clear fluid or a larger amount of water coming from your vagina. Speak with your gynecologist or midwife at this time.

Regular contractions may precede the water breaking in many cases, but in some cases, you may have your water break without subsequent labor. If your water has broken and you are not having contractions, your gynecologist may decide to induce labor.

  1. Changes in the Cervix

Several weeks before your baby’s birth, your physician will notice the changes that occur in your cervix. It will start to soften somewhat, and your Braxton Hicks contractions may allow the cervix to thin out.  It may start to open up just a bit. If it’s not your first pregnancy, your cervix could open two centimeters or so before you go into labor.

If this is just your first time being pregnant, and you have reached term, you may only dilate one centimeter, and labor could still not occur for days. During your last several prenatal visits to your gynecologist, expect to undergo a vaginal exam. This identifies changes that indicate whether labor will be starting soon.

  1. Other Signs

You may notice additional symptoms that indicate imminent labor. Here are several:

  • Diarrhea

Your active hormones as you get close to birth will result in looser bowel movements and stomach cramps. This is the way in which nature gives you more room for your baby’s head to pass through your pelvis.

  • Backache

When your baby drops, you will feel more pressure on your pelvic bones and back. The uterine and pelvic ligaments will become stretched to their maximum.

  • Increased urination

Your baby’s head will probably be sitting on your bladder as you near labor, so you’ll need to urinate more frequently.

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


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