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Bloody Show: Here’s What to Expect and What It Means for Labor
January 8, 2024

Bloody Show: Here’s What to Expect and What It Means for Labor

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Bloody Show: Here’s What to Expect and What It Means for Labor.
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Bloody Show: Here’s What to Expect and What It Means for Labor

If you’ve heard of the bloody show, you probably have some questions around what’s possibly the most dramatic-sounding of pregnancy terms. We get it! With a name like that, it’s bound to raise some questions. But here’s the TL;DR—the bloody show is a normal part of pregnancy and isn’t actually all that bloody (phew).

From what it is to what it means for labor, here’s everything important to know about the bloody show.

What is the bloody show?

The bloody show is a small amount of blood that’s released from the vagina as your body prepares to go into labor. The blood originates from your cervix (which is a blood-rich organ) and is caused by your cervix beginning to dilate in preparation for labor. Many expecting parents get excited by its appearance since it’s one of the first signs that labor is (finally) on the horizon. But don’t worry if you don’t have a bloody show because “not everyone has [one],” says Evaly Long, a licensed midwife with Hummingbird Midwifery. “Not experiencing this is not a sign that anything is wrong with your body or your labor—everyone’s bodies are different and can do different things.”

What does the bloody show look like?

Although the name implies something pretty dramatic, the reality is that the bloody show isn’t much of a show after all. “It can vary in amount from birth to birth but should be no more than about a tablespoon,” says Long, “If you see more than that amount, you should contact your provider.” The color of the bloody show all depends on whether or not it happens alongside losing your mucus plug, which is the thick barrier of mucus between your cervix and your uterus that develops during pregnancy. If the two happen simultaneously, the bloody show will often resemble blood-streaked mucus. If they happen separately, the bloody show can be brighter red in color (sort of resembling period blood).

Keep in mind that it’s also possible not to notice your bloody show at all. For some pregnant people, the bloody show happens after active labor has already begun, so you may be a bit too busy to notice it. Others may just miss it completely—and that’s totally normal.

How long after the bloody show does labor start?

Hoping your bloody show is your ticket to immediate labor? It might be, but not necessarily. Like many things pregnancy-related, the time between when you see the bloody show and when labor begins can vary greatly from person to person. The bloody show can appear anywhere from minutes, hours, days or even weeks before labor officially begins. Regardless, seeing your bloody show can be an exciting sign that things are moving in the right direction. How long does the bloody show last?

Again, this varies. Some people will see the bloody show all at once, like noticing it in your underwear or seeing it on the toilet paper when you wipe. For others, it’s more of a gradual process as the blood comes out little by little. Either way, it’s good to contact your healthcare provider if you think you’ve had your bloody show, as they may want to bring you in for a cervical check.

Contractions, cramping and the bloody show

Since it’s one way of your body signaling that it’s getting ready for labor, the bloody show is often preceded or followed by cramps or contractions. It’s not uncommon to feel cramps and then see your bloody show, or have it happen the other way around—you’ll start feeling cramping that’s then followed by your bloody show. The same holds true for contractions. These are all signs that your cervix is dilating as your body prepares for labor and giving birth.

What’s the difference between the bloody show and mucus plug?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the mucus plug is a collection of mucus that forms in the cervix during the early weeks of pregnancy and serves as a protective barrier against bacteria and infection. Losing your mucus plug and seeing your bloody show can be related, but they’re not quite the same thing.

Think of it like this: both losing your mucus plug and the bloody show are triggered by your changing cervix as it begins to dilate and prepare for labor. That means that although the bloody show and losing your mucus plug are in theory mutually exclusive, they often go hand-in-hand.

For many pregnant people, the mucus plug serves as a means to transport the blood that’s built up behind it from the cervix. And although you’re technically experiencing two different things, it’s why mucus plugs are often tinged with blood or pink streaks when they fall out.

But both are signs that your baby is soon to be on the way!


Evaly Long, CPM, LM, of Hummingbird Midwifery.

Briana Engelbrecht

Assistant Editor

Briana Engelbrecht is Babylist’s Assistant Editor, where she brings her passion for early childhood development and the perinatal period, plus experience as a mom of two to Babylist articles and guides. A former preschool teacher, she loves children’s picture books, cats, plants and making things.

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