mucous plug in pregnancy

Few pregnant women know exactly the function of the mucous plug; a substance capable of forming a barrier at the entrance of the uterus and thus prevent any infection from reaching the unborn baby. Knowing what happens after she is expelled is vitally important for the mother-to-be.

A new woman may not know what the cervical mucous plug looks like. However, for most pregnant women this is an issue that causes some uncertainty and concern; especially when it comes to expelling her early.

The mucous plug is a secretion of the cells that make up the epithelium of the cervix . It is generated in the first weeks of gestation and its appearance usually varies from one woman to another. For this reason, in some mothers it can appear as a transparent mucous plug with a gelatinous consistency or as a white mucous plug with a thick consistency and it is possible that it also presents some threads of blood.

Its composition is very varied. In general, this mucus is made up of 90% water and in a lower percentage it also has elements such as calcium, proteins, chloride, enzymes, sodium, phosphates and immunoglobulins that complement its important function. All these glycoproteins give it its characteristic gelatinous consistency.

The important role of the mucous plug in pregnancy

The mucous plug forms approximately during the seventh week of pregnancy and its primary function is to protect and keep the fetus safe. Therefore, it creates a barrier that favors the separation of the cervical canal with the interior of the uterus.

The interior of the vagina and the cervical canal make up a habitat where a large number of saprophytic bacteria and fungi proliferate and it is even a gateway for some potentially dangerous germs. Thanks to the mucous plug, the cervix remains sealed, since it is capable of generating a physical, chemical and immunological wall that blocks the entry of any microorganism or infectious agent. In addition, the presence of immunoglobulins in the plug promotes the care and protection of the future baby throughout the pregnancy.

If any bacteria present in the vaginal canal could reach the unborn fetus, it could cause serious infections and compromise its life.

What happens with the loss of the mucous plug?

Usually the loss of the mucous plug happens between the 37th and 42nd week of pregnancy, and there are even cases in which the mother expels it during the birth process. Likewise, there are times when the plug is lost in the initial phase of pregnancy, so in these circumstances the baby could be left vulnerable; however, the expectant mother’s body re-creates a plug to seal the entrance to the uterus again.

When the pregnant woman begins to expel the mucous plug, a generally thick and whitish flow is generated; although it can also present other shades such as a brown, green, pink, red or yellowish mucous plug. However, the standard in all women is that its size is usually between 4 to 5 cm.

It is common for the expulsion of the mucous plug to cause the rupture of the bag that contains the amniotic fluid. However, it is possible that the birth of the baby occurs several days later, since in some cases the bag of amniotic fluid breaks up to two weeks after the cervical cap has been expelled.

For this reason, the expulsion of the mucous plug does not always mean that it is one of the symptoms of impending labor, but it is associated with the onset of uterine activity. In such a case, two scenarios are possible: either labor has started with the consequent uterine dynamics, or labor will be triggered hours or days later.

It is advisable for the expectant mother to remain vigilant for any signs of labor once the mucous plug has left the body; especially if the expulsion of the mucous plug occurs at week 40. That is, when the pregnancy is coming to term, which could generally occur because the cervix has begun to dilate near the time of birth.

In these circumstances the plug can be expelled in three ways: for several days in the form of moderately heavy vaginal discharge, all at once, or simply expelled while the mother urinates.

Risk of early plug loss

When the mucous plug is lost early during pregnancy, it should be considered a worrying situation for both the patient and the baby. If this happens, the professional must carry out an exhaustive study of the uterine cervix, determine its length by ultrasound and, if necessary, rule out a possible threat of premature birth.

It is essential to prevent delivery from occurring before the 37th week has elapsed and if delivery is unavoidable, the obstetrician must perform all the necessary maneuvers to achieve neuroprophylaxis and pulmonary maturation of the fetus . In this way, a better evolution and development of the immature newborn could be achieved.

The visit to the doctor

The most common symptoms of impending labor are rupture of the amniotic sac accompanied by contractions; which can be regular or frequent. In this case, it is convenient to go to the obstetrician in order to evaluate the situation and analyze if the delivery has started.

It is also recommended to visit the doctor immediately when the mother notices heavy bleeding, since it could be a severe hemorrhage due to placental abruption or the presence of placenta previa.

In conclusion, we can say that the body of the future mother, in its perfection, and in order to guarantee the protection and safety of her future baby, has created the cervical cap as an impenetrable wall that keeps it safe from infections that could put your life at risk.

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