Q. I found a brownish red smear on my underwear. What is this from? Am I going into labor already?
A. You've probably discovered the "bloody show" that your practitioner has told you might indicate the first stages of labor. But don't panic. Throughout your pregnancy, your cervix has produced thick, gooey secretions that formed a "mucus plug" to effectively cork your cervix closed and protect your baby's amniotic sac from infection. This plug sometimes comes out as the cervix gets thinner (effaced) and starts to widen (dilate) in preparation for delivery. That's followed by a thinner mucus. This blood-stained mucous discharge may look brown--from old blood--or pink as the cervix continues to thin and open, causing tiny blood vessels to break along the surface of the cervix and tinge the mucus.
When will labor actually begin? You're still a victim of nature's whims, even now: Some women see a bloody show only minutes before labor begins, while others wait days. Until you're in active labor, there's no need to call your practitioner unless the blood is bright red and heavy like your period, which could be a sign that something's wrong and needs immediate medical attention.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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