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Is Spotting a Sign of Labor?

by
author image Melissa McNamara
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.
Is Spotting a Sign of Labor?
Doctors often perform a vaginal exam if spotting is present. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images

Spotting towards the end of your pregnancy is a sign of labor. This spotting occurs when the mucous plug that protects the opening of your cervix from bacteria dislodges from the cervix. Loss of the mucous plug also is known as the bloody show. Always consult with your doctor regarding spotting while pregnant, especially before the 36-week mark of your pregnancy.

Identification

The mucous plug does not resemble a plug or cork, as the description indicates, and the bloody show is not bloody. Some women do not notice this sign of labor, but light spotting toward the end of your pregnancy often indicates that labor is coming soon. The spotting resembles discharge that usually is brown but can be tinged pink or red. The plug is stringy and thick, similar to your vaginal discharge prepregnancy during ovulation. The bloody show can be seen in your underwear or noticed when you wipe after using the restroom. Spotting also can occur from the mucous plug being disrupted by sex or a medical vaginal exam, but this is not an indicator that labor is near.

Cause

Two additional signs of labor are effacement and dilation. At the beginning of your pregnancy, your cervix is 4 centimeters thick, but it starts thinning toward the end of your pregnancy. You are 50 percent effaced when the cervix is half its thickness, or 2 centimeters, but you cannot deliver a baby vaginally until you're 100 percent effaced. Dilation occurs when your cervix opens. The opening of the cervix starts at 0 centimeters and progresses to 10 centimeters when you're ready to deliver your baby. At 0 centimeters dilated, your mucous plug remains intact, but as the cervix opens and thins, the plug dislodges, and that's the bloody show. Labor starts anywhere from minutes later to days after the bloody show, even though you've already started dilating and effacing.

Signs

Lightening is another sign that labor is near and this occurs before the bloody show. Lightening also is known as the baby dropping. As your baby grows, he presses into your rib cage, causing shortness of breath. Once lightening begins, breathing becomes easier as your baby is prepping for delivery by moving downward. Sometimes you can feel the baby's neck and shoulders above the pubic bone once your baby has dropped. Your water breaking can occur as a gush or a slow leak of fluid, and it is a sign of labor. Seek medical attention if your water breaks. Even if labor has not started, your doctor may decide to induce labor since you're at an increased risk for an infection. Contractions are a guarantee that labor has started. Unlike Braxton hicks that commonly are confused with contractions, contractions are regular and predictable. Contractions become more intense and closer together. It's difficult to talk during a contraction, and resting or changing positions does not ease the discomfort.

Considerations

Vaginal bleeding that occurs with or without cramps before the second trimester signifies a possible miscarriage. Miscarriages are most common around 7 weeks, but the risk drops once the heart beat is detected. The risk of miscarriage drops even more during the second trimester. Other symptoms of a miscarriage are cramping or a dull pain in the lower back or abdominals, as well as noticing clot-like material or tissue.

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