Bloody show is thick vaginal discharge that contains mucus and blood from the cervix. It usually occurs in late pregnancy, as the body prepares for labor.

Vaginal discharge is a common symptom throughout pregnancy. Fluctuations in a woman’s hormone levels can cause changes in the consistency, amount, and appearance of vaginal discharge.

Women should monitor their vaginal discharge throughout their pregnancy. This is especially important during the last few weeks before their due date. Not only is bloody show a normal part of pregnancy, but it is also an early sign of labor.

In this article, we discuss why bloody show occurs, what it means, and what to expect.

Why does it happen?

Pregnant woman sitting on bed looking down at bump experiencing blood show.
Bloody show is a common occurence in the lead-up to labor.

The cervix undergoes significant changes during the third trimester of pregnancy. As labor approaches, two main changes occur:

  • effacement, which occurs when the lining of the cervix becomes softer and thinner
  • dilation, which occurs when the opening to the cervix widens

The cervix is full of blood vessels, which makes it prone to bleeding. When blood from the cervix mixes with mucus, it leaves the body in the form of bloody show.

Bloody show is a sign that the blood vessels in the cervix are rupturing as it effaces and dilates.

Bloody show vs. mucus plug

Bloody show is not the only type of vaginal discharge to watch out for toward the end of pregnancy. Many women also lose their mucus plugs during this time.

A plug of mucus forms inside the cervix during the early stages of pregnancy. Increased levels of progesterone in the body cause the cervix to soften and produce thick mucus that eventually forms a plug.

The mucus plug prevents harmful bacteria from entering the uterus as the fetus develops, and it remains in place until the cervix starts dilating.

After dislodging from the cervix, the mucus plug will leave the body as a thick, gel-like discharge that is either clear or slightly pink.

Having bloody show and losing the mucus plug are closely related events, but they are not the same thing. The mucus plug is transparent and contains little or no blood, while bloody show is a mixture of blood and mucus.

What does it mean?

Bloody show is a normal occurrence during pregnancy. It means that the cervix has started to prepare for labor.

Every pregnancy is unique, so it is difficult to say exactly when a woman will enter labor after bloody show occurs. However, some women may enter labor a few hours or a few days after having bloody show.

What to expect

Pregnant woman in gynecology office in consultation with doctor.
A person who has concerns about bloody show should speak to a doctor.

Bloody show is a type of vaginal discharge that contains mucus tinged with either bright red or dark brown blood.

It occurs during the tail end of a pregnancy, just before a woman goes into the labor. However, the length of time between having bloody show and entering labor can vary significantly between women.

Bloody show is not a medical emergency. Bleeding during pregnancy is a source of concern for many women, but it does not always indicate pregnancy loss or a complication.

Certain types of bleeding, including bloody show, are perfectly normal during pregnancy. Light spotting, or implantation bleeding, can occur during early pregnancy, when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the womb.

Experiencing inflammation or polyps on the cervix can also cause light bleeding.

Bleeding heavily during the second and third trimesters may indicate a serious complication involving the placenta, such as placenta previa or placental abruption.

Women who have bloody discharge long before their due date should seek immediate medical attention.

Unlike other types of bleeding, bloody show has a thick, gelatinous, and sometimes stringy texture. It can also appear translucent with very little blood. At other times, bloody show may be pink or streaked with blood.

Women who have bloody show should closely monitor themselves for other symptoms of labor.

Other signs of labor include:

  • persistent lower back pain
  • persistent cramping
  • lightening, which refers to the lowering of the fetus into the pelvis
  • contractions that gradually increase in intensity and duration
  • rupture of membranes, which occurs when the water breaks


Bloody show is a natural part of pregnancy. It is a sign that the cervix is dilating and preparing for labor.

Women who experience bloody show should monitor themselves for other symptoms of labor, such as cramping, contractions, or their water breaking. However, every pregnancy is different, so it is difficult to say exactly when labor will occur after bloody show happens.

Women who notice vaginal bleeding long before their due date should contact their healthcare provider. Bleeding during pregnancy is not always a cause for concern, but it is still best to consult a professional regarding any worrisome symptoms.