Mucus Plug vs Water Breaking
The terms refer to a pregnancy more than 37 weeks of gestation. It is ready to progress into labor and delivery. Water breaking and mucus plug breaking are two initial signs of impending labour.
Baby is in a large bag made out of a thin but strong membrane called the chorioamnion. It is a hybrid membrane made by combining chorion and amnion. In this bag, there is a fluid called amniotic fluid. This fluid is a product of secretions of the baby’s skin, placenta, baby’s lungs and baby’s urine. It helps protect the baby from infection, heat, trauma, pressure, impact and certain chemicals. This is the fluid which leaks out when water breaks. Water breaking is spontaneous rupture of chorioamnion.
Chorioamnion ruptures when the cervix of the uterus dilates. Uterus contracts and the baby’s head presses against the membrane stretching across the cervical region. This pressure breaks the membrane. Amniotic fluid gushing out washes the birth canal removing harmful bacteria. The color of the amniotic fluid is a good indicator of fetal well-being and progression of labor. If amniotic fluid is meconium stained, it is a sign of fetal distress. Immediate delivery by assisted methods or caesarean section may be needed. (Normally water breaking is not associated with any complications. If there is polyhydramnios, low lying placenta, or unstable lie, there may be problems. Cord prolapse, hand prolapse, and malpresentation are commonly encountered problems. While water breaking is spontaneous, the same method is also used by obstetricians to induce labor. Artificial rupture of membranes is a sterile procedure done at labor room when the cervix and the pelvis are favorable for vaginal delivery.
During early days of pregnancy, there is a protective plug of mucus lodged in the cervix. This is formed by glands in the cervix. This plug prevents early cervical dilatation and infections. Closer to delivery, when the cervix dilates this plug of mucus falls off. This is called show. It looks like phlegm with a little bit of blood. Women mistake show as vaginal bleeding and rush to the hospital. Obstetricians can differentiate between show and vaginal bleeding just by examination.
What is the difference between Mucus Plug and Water Breaking?
• Normally, mucus plug falls off before water breaking.
• Mucus plug looks like phlegm while water is a cloudy fluid.
• Both may or may not be accompanied by abdominal pain.
• Water washes away microorganisms from the vagina while mucus plug does not.
• Water breaking may be accompanied by cord or hand prolapse while mucus plug is not.