What Does the Bloody Show Look Like?

Reviewed on 1/13/2021

What is a bloody show?

Around the seventh week following conception, your body forms a mucus plug to seal the cervix. As your body progresses into the stages of labor, you may pass all or a portion of this mucus plug, often called a bloody show.
Around the seventh week following conception, your body forms a mucus plug to seal the cervix. As your body progresses into the stages of labor, you may pass all or a portion of this mucus plug, often called a bloody show.

Each pregnancy is unique. Still, there is a thread of similarity that weaves itself through every pregnancy, making the stages leading up to birth predictable.

Around the seventh week following conception, your body forms a mucus plug to seal the cervix and protect your growing baby from bacteria. As your body progresses into the stages of labor, you may pass all or a portion of this mucus plug, often called a bloody show

Most frequently occurring in the last few weeks of pregnancy, the bloody show happens as your cervix dilates to prepare for birth. When the cervix dilates enough that it no longer holds the mucus plug in place, the bloody show may begin.

You may lose your mucus plug a little at a time, noticing small strings of mucus when you use the bathroom, or you may lose it all at once. As long as you are in the final weeks of your pregnancy, there is nothing to be concerned about when you see this sticky substance. It’s a sign that your labor is progressing.

Signs and symptoms of a bloody show

When you pass your mucus plug, it may be clear, pink, or brown with streaks of blood. It’s easy to feel alarmed when you see blood, but keep in mind that it’s called the “bloody show” for a reason.

While most of the mucus plug is clear or opaque, when mixed with blood, it can appear in different colors:

  • A pink color indicates a small amount of blood that has mixed in with the mucus
  • A brown coloring is older blood that has changed color over time
  • A red tint is fresh blood that has maintained its color

You’ll most likely see the discharge after wiping when you use the bathroom. If it is your bloody show, the mucus will be very thick, stringy, and similar to jelly. The mucus may come out a little at a time or all at once, depending on how much you have dilated.

Causes of a bloody show

The bloody show can occur as a natural progression of labor, but there may be other contributing factors, such as:

Sexual intercourse

Having intercourse can loosen the mucus plug, causing discharge afterward. This is especially true if you’re in the third trimester of pregnancy and your cervix is already thinning and dilating.

Membrane sweeping

As you near the end of pregnancy, your doctor may sweep your membranes while checking your cervix for dilation. During a membrane sweep, he or she will use gloved fingers to loosen the baby’s sac from the uterine wall. This is done to encourage your body to progress into labor.

Weakened Cervix

If you have a short or weakened cervix, you can lose your mucus plug sooner. Your cervix may not be strong enough to stay closed the way it needs to during pregnancy.

Trauma

Falling down or being in a car accident could cause your body to go into labor sooner than it should. If you think that some kind of trauma may have induced labor, call your doctor or go to your hospital’s labor & delivery unit to get checked.

SLIDESHOW

Conception: The Amazing Journey from Egg to Embryo See Slideshow

When to see the doctor about the bloody show

You may experience a general increase in discharge during your pregnancy. Usually, this is not something that should concern you. However, if you think something is abnormal, trust your instincts. You should always talk to your doctor about anything that worries you. 

For example, if you notice a lot of mucus discharge earlier in your pregnancy, this could be a sign that you are losing your mucus plug too soon. Without the mucus plug, your uterus is more exposed and susceptible to infection.

Diagnosing a bloody show

If you do experience discharge at any point during your pregnancy, be sure to note the color, consistency, and amount. You can even take a picture of the discharge to show your doctor at your next appointment.

With these details, your doctor will be able to determine whether or not you lost your mucus plug. He or she may want to check your cervix for thinning and dilation if you did experience the bloody show.

Treatments for a bloody show

Typically there is no reason to treat the bloody show, as it is a natural step in the labor progression. However, if you begin to experience the loss of your mucus plug too soon, your doctor may:

  • Ask you to relax, up to and including bed rest
  • Encourage you to avoid strenuous activity
  • Send you to the hospital to monitor for signs of labor
  • Place a stitch in your cervix to keep it closed 

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References
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Labor Induction."

American Pregnancy Association: "Cervical Cerclage."

American Pregnancy Association: "Mucus Plug."

American Pregnancy Association: "Signs of Labor."

Kid’s Health: "Pregnancy Week Seven."

Kid’s Health: "Sex During Pregnancy."

Women’s Health: "Labor and Birth."

Women’s Health: "Stages of Pregnancy."

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