Brown Discharge During Third Trimester

QUESTION

Dear Midwife,
My wife is 23 weeks pregnant and she has been having a mucus discharge that is thick and brownish pink color. The doctor do not know what it is or what is causing it.

My wife is concerned that it's her mucus plug and that she may be starting the labor process. She lost her last child 7 weeks into her second pregnancy.

What can this be?

ANSWER

You may be right that it is the mucus plug. Even if you are, that does not necessarily mean that labor is imminent, as some women seem to have an abundant supply of the mucus, and it just keeps coming out. We don't know what causes this, if that's even what's going on.

If you are having intercourse, another possibility is that it is a combination of semen and old blood from a broken capillary, which is not dangerous at all.

Finally, there is a possibility that it is an infection, but I'm assuming that a lab test has already been done and found to be negative.

If her doctor is concerned about pre-term labor, s/he will probably order an ultrasound to measure her cervical length. As long as her cervix doesn't get really short, everything is probably ok.

-- Cynthia, CNM. PhD.

Cynthia Flynn

Cynthia Flynn, CNM. PhD, is the General Director of the Family Health and Birth Center which provides prenatal, birth, postnatal, gynecological and primary health care to underserved women and their families in Washington, D.C. Recently Cynthia served as Associate Professor of Nursing at Seattle University. There she not only taught, but remained in full scope clinical midwifery practice at Valley Medical Center where she cared for pregnant and birthing women, and practices well-woman gynecology, family planning, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Cynthia founded Columbia Women's Clinic and Birth Center, where she took care of pregnant women and infants up to two weeks of age and attended both birth center and hospital births. Before Cynthia earned her CNM, she worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery and postpartum and is a certified Doula and Doula trainer.