Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal mortality, and is frequently associated with intra-amniotic infection hypothesized to arise from bacterial ascension across a dysfunctional cervical mucus plug. To study this dysfunction, we assessed the permeability of cervical mucus from non-pregnant ovulating (n = 20) and high-(n = 9) and low-risk (n = 16) pregnant women to probes of varying sizes and surface chemistries. We found that the motion of negatively charged, carboxylated microspheres in mucus from pregnant patients was significantly restricted compared to ovulating patients, but not significantly different between high-A nd low-risk pregnant women. In contrast, charged peptide probes small enough to avoid steric interactions, but sensitive to the biochemical modifications of mucus components exhibited significantly different transport profiles through mucus from high-A nd low-risk patients. Thus, although both microstructural rearrangements of the components of mucus as well as biochemical modifications to their adhesiveness may alter the overall permeability of the cervical mucus plug, our findings suggest that the latter mechanism plays a dominant role in the impairment of the function of this barrier during preterm birth. We expect that these probes may be readily adapted to study the mechanisms underlying disease progression on all mucosal epithelia, including those in the mouth, lungs, and gut.