When you hear about seeing a “bloody show” at the end of your pregnancy, it sounds as if you are in for something dramatic and gory. But it’s not dangerous or necessarily a sign that something has gone wrong; and in fact, many women never experience it.
The “bloody show” actually refers to the release of a blood-tinged mucous plug from your cervix when your body is ready for labor. The mucous plug has been there throughout your pregnancy to block the opening to your cervical canal and prevent bacteria from entering. It is called a “bloody show” because the mucous plug is sometimes tinged with blood; which can mean that it is red, pink, or brown in color. The blood is caused by tiny blood vessels rupturing as your cervix begins to thin and dilate.
For some women, the mucous plug comes out gradually over a few days, and they never realize what is happening. Other women see the mucous plug but no blood. Whether you see it or not, you should not be alarmed. The release of the mucous plug is just one sign of your body preparing for labor.
What should you do if you see a bloody show?
If you do see a “bloody show” does it mean it’s time to head to the hospital? Not necessarily. Your body is clearly preparing for labor, but it could be hours, or even weeks before you are ready to deliver. However, you should call your doctor if:
- Your mucous plug is released less than 36 weeks into your pregnancy;
- You see bright red bleeding, or more than a tablespoon of blood;
- You are feeling painful cramps;
- You are feeling strong and regular contractions that are coming every four to five minutes; or
- The bloody show is accompanied by any other unusual or painful symptoms.
It is especially important that you watch out for excessive bleeding. Bleeding is an important symptom of placenta previa or placental abruption, serious conditions that require immediate medical attention.
Otherwise, if you have passed your mucus plug, you should simply try to relax and monitor your symptoms and any contractions carefully. Now is the time to enjoy your last few hours or days of relative quiet before your big day – and your new little bundle of joy – arrives.