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I asked folks to “Toss Me a Birth-Related Word” on my Navelgazing Midwife Facebook Page and “Mucous” was the first word. Here, I’ll use the word as a springboard from which to jump.


I’ve written about “gloppies” (my nickname for mucous in birth) before, but thought I’d write about how gloppies clearly demonstrate how far a woman is in labor. I’m sure there are exceptions, but they would be extremely rare. I’ve talked to nurses and other midwives about this so have more info than just mine.

When a woman advances in labor, her mucous gets more and more copious. Personally, I have never seen a woman over 6 centimeters who didn’t have gloppies. When I meet up with a mom who looks like she’s in kick-ass labor… even if she smells in labor (another topic)… if she doesn’t have gloppies, she invariably turns out to be under 4 centimeters. I came to be able to tell if a woman was in progressing labor (as opposed to prodromal labor) by her gloppiness.

Of course, you have to be near the vagina in order to see how much there is.

And the closer to birth, the bloodier the mucous. I don’t mean bright red blood, but more period-blood looking, mixed with the mucous. I’ve asked women if they have to wipe two or three times when they call with “really hard” contractions. Not that I don’t go if they don’t, but lets me know if I need to run or not.

There is a seemingly endless supply of mucous because, well, this is an endless supply. Just like when we have a cold, mucous is made until the cold is over, the same with birth mucous. It’s just made until birth is over. I always wondered about the two kinds… are they similar in make-up? What’s different? What makes one when we’re sick and then other when we’re birthing?

Things I think about.

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Reader Comments (13)

I never saw a bit of glop in my HBAC labor... I spent 16 hours with increasingly hard contractions and no glop at all... I got to a 4. Then my doula did some belly-sifting, shifted my baby's asynclitic head, threw me immediately into transition, and less than an hour later I was pushing. 45 minutes after that I had a baby. So I guess I just missed any gloppiness because my technically "active labor" took place all at once in less than 2 hours. Sure am glad my doula showed up when I was a pitiful 1cm! I needed her, even though I theoretically shouldn't have needed her for a long time yet.

May 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

After delivering over 1000 babies, i have to disagree with this post. Yes, a lot of women have copious mucous in labor; but, a lot of women don't. The last few births I have attended the women had no mucous or blood present at all. Mucous and the dilation of labor are not interrelated. I hope new people in the birth world don't read this information and start incorporating it into their practice, if the do then they will be doing a huge disservice to their patients/clients.

May 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLonghorns

I agree with you Barb, and another interesting thing I have noticed after I was told/read to look for it is 2 separate phases of bloody mucous. The first is in between 4-5 cm as active labor is kicking in and then passing 7-8cm. I am thinking the providers who see it the most are those who are used to seeing a mom squat with contractions, and then it's really gloppy and hanging down. Always such a comforting thing for me to see personally, knowing things are moving right along!

May 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristy

The last FEW births you've attended the women had no mucous or blood present AT ALL?! What do you attribute that to? The weather? Time of year? How could you have something so unusual several women in a row? Very odd. Don't you agree?

May 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Weather, time of year? Really Barbara? I delivered 7 babies this weekend, so no I don't attribute it to anything but what is normal. Just because I don't agree with your post doesn't mean you have to get all feisty about it. 3 out of the 7 had no mucous/blood, and they were just normal sacred natural beautiful births. The presence of blood/mucous doesn't always tell you where a woman is at in her labor. That's all I am trying to say here.

May 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLonghorns

Obviously feeling snarky. Sorry.

I just can't recall *ever* seeing a dry birth... which is, what it sounds like, you are describing. And to think 3 out of 7 were dry? That just seems incredibly odd.

Interesting, but very odd.

May 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

No gloppies for me or any kind of "show" at all until right before I start pushing out the baby. It is one of those things that always misled me in my own labors into thinking I HAD to be in earlier labor than I thought--I knew there "should" be show or mucous or *something* and yet, no discharge at all until baby is almost OUT.

Now, post-birth. Holy cow! I have the most serious mucous ever. The best I can describe it as long "strings" of mucous--almost looks like mebranes--sometimes so tough that it takes winding around a piece of toilet paper and pulling *with both hands* to get it to come out. Continues until the lochia has tapered to pinkish. Happened with all babies including the second trimester miscarriage. I've never talked to anyone else who had this experience (and my midwives had never seen it either--any thoughts?)

May 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

There's always the exceptions that prove the rules, so to speak. I have attended several births where there was no mucus or bloody show, a couple of times the baby came out wearing a big old chunk of it on his head like a cap, my grandson included (we had to scrub that little curly top several times with a brush to get it all out, his hair wouldn't dry until all the gooiness was gone).

I have also seen women who had tons of bloody show and only be 2 cms....

But it does typically seem to have a pattern,.....thinner, more watery early on, thick and stringy closer to birth, and then little to none during pushing. That, and the crease that forms right over the pubis as she dilates and baby moves down, and that fickle purple butt crack line (some swear they see it every time, I only see it rarely) are good indications of how far along a mama is without a VE.

May 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

Mucus, not mucous.

Mucus is a noun, mucous is an adjective.

May 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGrammar stickler

Oh, and my "early labor" contractions were not only quite strong, they were also 2-3 minutes apart for about 12 of those 16 asynclitic hours. The active/transition contractions were right on top of each other, no break or only a few seconds of break. The whole early/active dilation divide was pretty useless in my labor, as it didn't predict either how far away birtg was or what my contractions would be like (I did the entire thing unmedicated, and I can still tell you those "early" contractions, while manageable, were no joke).

I was very discouraged during my labor whenever I went to the barhroom (and at the 3 VE's I had before I was complete) because of the lack of mucous or blood on the TP or the midwife's glove. My previous labor had plenty of blood and glop, and I definitely did not believe I could be 2 hours from birth after the midwife's hand emerged glop-free.

May 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

MUCUS!!! I can't believe I spelled it wrong. *hiding my head in shame* Now I can't change it, either, since the link is "mucous." How embarrassing.

May 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I don't know that mucous is a definite sign--I only have my anecdotal experience to go on, but I checked myself several times during my last birth and never had much going on with mucous (obviously some, but not a lot, and not my mucous plug at all). In fact, my mucous plug popped out all at once in the middle of transition and then the baby was there maybe 3 minutes later.

May 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArual

I didn't have a spec of blood or mucus during my last labor and boy was I checking. I sat on the toilet for much of my 3 hour long labor and never saw or wiped anything but pee. I don't know what came out of me the 20 minutes I was in a pool. Maybe it was all concentrated then.

As a midwife I do think that I often see it - usually plopping onto the bottom of the pool. But sometimes not, especially with fast births.

May 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinsey

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