Is it a mucus plug or a bloody show that has come out? What is the difference between a bloody show vs. the mucus plug? A bloody show is something you would expect from 38 weeks as you approach your term. It may be a sign labor is about to start.
A mucus plug on the other hand forms way early in your pregnancy. After conception, the cervical mucus plug is formed.
But when it comes to vaginal discharge during pregnancy, how do you tell the difference here? Below are distinguishing pictures as well as comparisons on the bloody show vs. mucus plug.
What is a bloody show?
A bloody show is the term used to describe bleeding during your pregnancy especially at the end of the pregnancy. Its color can be pink, brown or bright red depending on the time the blood came out.
- Besides occurring at the end of the pregnancy, some bleeding may also occur after having sex or during a pelvic examination.
- However, if the blood is seen without a reason, then it is most likely a bloody show.
You should be careful with how much bleeding should be termed a bloody show and normal. A bloody show is but a small amount of blood that does not last for long. If you see the bleeding going on for a while, you should see your medical doctor about it.
A bloody show occurs due the breaking of the capillaries that line the wall of the cervix. When the pregnancy is nearing its end, the cervix becomes soft in preparation for birth.
This softening often causes bleeding since blood capillaries will be very close to the skin. Any disturbance will lead to the bleeding or a bloody show during pregnancy.
Some of the disturbances that may lead to a bloody show include:
- The ripening of the cervix in readiness for the birth of your child.
- Sexual intercourse or pelvic examination in the third trimester.
- The release of the mucus plug which may lead to some bleeding as the cervical plug is attached to the wall of the cervix.
- The occurrence of Braxton Hicks contractions. These contractions happen in the third trimester and can be easily confused for labor.
Towards the end of the pregnancy, the progesterone hormone starts preparing the body for labor. One way it does this is by softening the cervix by making it thin, more pliable and stretched.
Together with the pro-inflammatory agents, progesterone will make the cervix soft and bluish purple in color.
Through the process of effacement, the cervix will begin to shorten but will remain closed until the baby is ready to come out.
These changes are what make it easy to experience a bloody show.
What is a mucus plug?
A cervical mucus plug (operculum) is a mass of mucus which forms in the cervix during the first month of the pregnancy.
As soon as the embryo attaches itself to the walls of the uterus (implantation), progestin and estrogen hormones initiate the generation of the mucus plug in the cervix. This is a major difference between the mucus plug and a bloody show.
The mucus plug has the role of preventing any germs and infections from entering the womb to affect the baby. This is made possible by its antiseptic properties which kill any germs trying to enter the womb.
Also, the seal created by the cervical plug is tight to prevent any physical entry of a foreign object into the womb.
Besides that, the mucus plug is kept fresh at all times through continuous regeneration by the walls of the cervix.
The mucus plug is often released as a thick discharge when the pregnancy has come to an end. It is often a sign that you are about to give birth. The mucus plug can come out in various ways as follows:
- As a thick bloody mass of mucus especially in pregnant nonparous women who have a narrow cervix. In this case, the mucus plug would be firmly held by the walls of the cervix that coming out may involve some bleeding as the wall of the cervix is slightly torn. Also, you are likely to notice the plug come out in pieces rather than in one single mass.
- As a single mass of clear mucus especially in parous pregnant women who have a considerably wider cervix. This is because the mucus would be considerably less tightly held by the walls of the cervix in that it easily comes out.
- A mass of mucus followed by blood of a brown, pink or bright red color. This may be the case especially when you have scars on the cervix resulting from inflammatory lesions from diseases such as trichomoniasis, forced expansion during an abortion, or other issues.
- It may also come out with thick blood as a result of cervical erosion.
These are not the only way the mucus plug may come out.
There are other cases such as preterm labor and miscarriages where the case is different. At other times, your doctor may need to manually remove the mucus plug when the time has come for labor and the body is yet to initiate the removal of the mucus plug.
Contrary to popular belief, the mucus plug is not the only line of defense your baby has against germs and other aspects.
There is the watery sac which surrounds the child which also offers an extra layer of protection.
Another important difference on the bloody show vs. bloody show is that losing the mucus plug does not always mean that you are about to go into labor.
You may lose it due to reasons other than labor yet still be able to deliver a healthy baby.
Pictures and comparison
The pictures of a bloody show and a mucus plug show quite different scenarios. In most cases, a bloody show, as seen in pictures here, is colored brown or pinkish brown.
On the other hand, cervical mucus from a healthy cervix is expected to appear yellowish white in color. We have outlined these differences in a summary table below.
What does a bloody show look like?
A bloody show can be identified by the following characteristics or symptoms.
- Brown, pink or light red in color.
- Low viscosity which means that it flows freely when compared to a mucus plug.
- It is likely to appear as patches of blood which are not tightly together.
- Since it is blood mixed with some mucus, it will be slightly heavier than pure blood. It will also be a bit pale when compared to actual blood.
What does a mucus plug look like?
A mucus plug will be identified with the following characteristics:
- A white or (very) slightly yellow or slightly brown or slightly pink red discharge of gel-like nature.
- It may occur as a single mass of mucus or several masses of the gel-like material.
- Often, it is heavy and will not flow freely.
Bloody Show vs. Mucus Plug: Differences
There are various ways you can differentiate between a mucus plug and bloody show. In this bloody show vs. mucus plug comparison, the following issues will be dealt with:
|Bloody show||Cervical mucus plug|
|Appearance:||The appearance of a bloody show is brown, pink or light red in color. It may also appear as patches of blood or a mass of blood mixed with some mucus.||The mucus plug will either be white, slightly brown, yellow or pink red in color. It will be a thick mass mostly made up of mucus.|
|Time of appearance:||Comes out before mucus plug towards the end of the pregnancy term (gestation).|
When the bloody show appears without being succeeded by the mucus plug, it may be due to having disturbed the cervical area through sexual intercourse or a pelvic examination.
|Will most likely come out after the bloody show.|
|Amount of discharge:||A bloody show is not heavy. It occurs in a small amount compared to your normal period.|
A mucus plug often occurs as a single discharge
|A cervical plug discharge may come out as lumps or pieces, though in small quantities still that may take a while to clear.|
|Thickness and consistency:||The general rule of thumb is that a mucus plug is heavier than a bloody show. While they may be similar in color at times, a mucus plug is made mostly of mucus and should thus be heavier than a bloody show.||A bloody show is less viscous. It is lighter compared to the mucus-filled cervical plug.|
- Neither the bloody show nor the mucus plug should have any smell to it.
- They both occur in a short span of time most often not more than 2 days. If you experience bleeding for more than 2 days, you should see a doctor.
- The mucus plug and the bloody show occur in small amounts when compared to a menstrual flow. Both discharges will be taken care of using simple panty liners and may not need a sanitary pad or tampon.
If you notice any bleeding that is heavy and goes on for a while during your pregnancy, you need to see the doctor about. Also, any smell from the discharge should be checked for safety reasons.
From the differences and similarities of the flows during pregnancy therefore, a mucus plug is a stronger sign of labor when compared to a bloody show. This is because it can appear even before preterm labor and other cases where the fetus is about to exit the womb.