What You Need to Know About Labor and Delivery Nursing (2024)

A bachelor’s degree in nursing can help prepare you for this special career role.

Behind many mothers, there are the nurses who helped them give birth.

Labor and delivery (L&D) nursing is one of the most recognizable nursing specialties, and one that many RNs want to pursue. Like any specialty, though, it has its challenges and rewards.

“We don’t just rock babies all day,” said Crystal Paunan, DNP, CNE, aChamberlain University instructor with more than 10 years of experience in labor and delivery nursing. “There’s a lot more to it than that.”

Let’s learn more about L&D nursing.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

Most L&D nurses participate in the care of mothers and babies before (antepartum), during (intrapartum) and after (postpartum) birth. They provide medical and emotional support and keep doctors informed of any concerns and changes. Their responsibilities are varied but may include:1

  • Monitoring the mother’s and baby’s vital signs
  • Administering medications
  • Timing contractions
  • Assisting doctors during delivery
  • Coaching mothers during labor and delivery
  • Monitoring the newborn’s condition
  • Educating patients and family members

“The doctor or midwife is not there all the time,” Paunan said. “The person that’s their go-to is that labor and delivery nurse.”

Is It Hard Being a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

L&D nurses will tell you it is hard but rewarding work. The hours can be long.L&D nurses generally work 12-hour shifts. But because of the bond they form with the laboring patient, it’s not unusual for nurses to stay past their shift change to be there when the baby is born.

Things change quickly during labor, and the unexpected can happen. So, the work can be stressful and intense. Being an L&D nurse requires patience and empathy and RNs doing this work may experience compassion fatigue. And while bringing new lives into the world can be joyful, L&D nurses also must be prepared for sad and difficult outcomes.

“I always tell people that it’s 99% good stuff,” Paunan said. “But when it’s bad, it’s really bad because you’re dealing with the loss of a baby or the loss of a mother.”

What Personality Traits Should anL&D Nurse Have?

Assertiveness is a must in this nursing career—and so is a sense of collaboration. L&D nurses are patient advocates, communicating a mother’s needs to the entire medical team.

“Nursing students are very impressed when they see the relationship between the L&D nurse and the doctor or midwife,” Paunan said. “It’s a team approach, not hierarchical. It’s not, ‘Doctor, what should I do?’ It’s, ‘This is my patient. This is what I need.’ ”

L&D nurses must have an inclusive outlook, as they care for all kinds of patients — from pregnant teens to women who are incarcerated.

“In our specialty, it’s important to remember that not every family is made the same way, and not every family has the same things,” Paunan said. “A nurse must be able to extend the same caring and empathy to all patients, no matter what the circ*mstances are.”

Are There Similar Careers to L&D Nursing?

If you like the idea of caring for mothers and babies but aren’t sure if L&D nursing suits you, there are several related positions you may want to consider.

If you like a slower-paced environment, patient education may be the right fit. Postpartum nursing could be a job field to consider. If you want to work with babies, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nursing may be an option.

Can an L&D Nurse Become a Midwife?

With additional education and certification, you may be able to take on a higher level of responsibility during labor and delivery. A certified nurse midwife (CNM) can do much of the work that an obstetrician does during labor.

According to the American Midwifery Certification Board, as of 2022, there were about 13,524 CNMs and certified midwives (CMs) in the United States.2 Many people think that midwives deliver most babies at home. Yet in 2019, 89% of CNMs/CMs attended births in hospitals.2 CNMs can also serve as primary care providers to women of all ages, starting in the teen years.

How Do I Become a Labor and Delivery Nurse?

To become a labor and delivery nurse, you must be an RN with an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. If you’re ready to earn your bachelor’s, you may want to considerChamberlain University’sBachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program.

Chamberlain offers several ways to earn your BSN degree. You can study at one of Chamberlain’s U.S.campus locations. Or you can earn yourBSN online,in a hybrid learning model that combines online coursework with on-site clinical experience. There’s also an RN to BSNoption, which you may be able to complete in as little as one year.

Chamberlain is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), with multiple programmatic accreditations from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE

As you plan your future in nursing, learn more about Chamberlain’s BSN degree program. Find out how you can prepare for the nursing career you envision, as Paunan found hers in L&D nursing.

“You’re there not only when a baby comes into the world — you’re there at the creation of a family,” she said. “You get a picture taken with you giving the baby’s first bath. You know that’s going into a baby book and that kid’s going to see your face when he’s older. Those are those cool moments when you realize, ‘This is why I do this.’ ”

Chamberlain University, an accredited institution, offers bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and certificate programs in nursing and healthcare professions. With a growing network of campuses and robust online programs, Chamberlain continues to build on more than 130 years of excellence in preparing extraordinary healthcare professionals.

Chamberlain University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (www.hlcommission.org), an institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Accreditation provides assurance to the public and to prospective students that standards of quality have been met. The baccalaureate degree program in nursing, master’s degree program in nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice program and post-graduate APRN certificate program at Chamberlain University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, ccneaccreditation.org.

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Chamberlain University is approved to operate by the Virginia Board of Nursing Perimeter Center, 9960 Maryland Drive, Suite 300, Henrico, VA 23233-1463, 804-367-4515.

©2024 Chamberlain University LLC. All rights reserved.

1Source: www.webmd.com/baby/what-to-know-about-labor-delivery-nurses#091e9c5e823e226d-1-2

2Source: www.midwife.org/acnm/files/cclibraryfiles/filename/000000008273/EssentialFactsAboutMidwives_Final_2022.pdf

By Chamberlain University

What You Need to Know About Labor and Delivery Nursing (2024)


What are the key roles of nurses during labor and delivery? ›

This means that L&D Nurses monitor vitals of both mother and baby; track and measure contractions; proactively assess and address mothers' needs (e.g., pain medications or other support); assist with delivery and provide care.

How to answer why you want to be a labor and delivery nurse? ›

I'm passionate about empowering mothers and helping them through the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth, so entering a career in labor and delivery has helped me work more toward this mission."

What are the important things to remember when caring for patients during labor and delivery? ›

Encourage her to move around and get into the position she feels most comfortable in. It is also important to encourage her to drink fluids and eat as she wishes throughout labour (as long as a C-section/surgery is not indicated), and to empty her bladder frequently. You can also teach her breathing techniques.

What does a L&D nurse do? ›

A labor and delivery (L&D) nurse supports patients during and after birth under the supervision of a nurse midwife or physician. They also care for infants immediately after delivery. These registered nurses (RNs) often work in birthing centers, delivery rooms, and hospital maternity units.

What is the best part of labor and delivery nurse? ›

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a Labor & Delivery nurse is the unparalleled sense of joy and fulfillment that comes from assisting mothers as they bring new life into the world. Witnessing the miracle of birth and being a part of that transformative experience is a unique privilege.

Why do nurses want to work in labor and delivery? ›

You get to help people

One of the most convincing reasons to become a labor and delivery nurse is the value of the work you provide. Many pregnant women depend on the care of their labor and delivery nurse to have a successful and safe delivery.

What are nursing priorities during labor? ›

Nursing Care Plans

The nursing care plan for a client in labor includes providing information regarding labor and birth, providing comfort and pain relief measures, monitoring the client's vital signs and fetal heart rate, facilitating postpartum care, and preventing complications after birth.

What is a job description for a labor and delivery nurse? ›

Their responsibilities typically include: Assessing the patient: They monitor and assess the condition of mothers before, during, and after labor. This includes tracking contractions, checking dilation, monitoring vital signs, and interpreting fetal heart rate patterns.

How do I prepare for an L&D nursing interview? ›

Be sure that whatever you say, you convey the ideas that you're enthusiastic about being a labor and delivery nurse and you have the right experience to succeed in the position. Exude confidence on the day of your interview. Wear something that makes you feel poised and powerful. Business or business casual is ideal.

Why am I interested in this nursing position? ›

Highlight Your Strengths: Use this question as an opportunity to showcase your strengths, such as empathy, communication skills, or adaptability. Explain how these qualities will make you a successful nurse. Make It Personal: Share a story or anecdote that illustrates your passion for nursing.

What interventions are most important during labor? ›

Different types of interventions can help at different stages of labour and birth. Types of interventions in labour include induction of labour, augmentation of labour, assisted birth, episiotomy and caesarean section.

How hard is labor and delivery nursing? ›

Working as a labor and delivery nurse certainly has its challenges—from being in a fast pace work environment where you need to constantly monitor patients and help make quick decisions to dealing with a tragic loss. It can be challenging, hard, and stressful.

What is the difference between a maternity nurse and a labor and delivery nurse? ›

For example, they may work in an obstetrician's office, offering maternity care to mothers-to-be. Labor and delivery nurses, however, focus specifically on labor, birthing, and the immediate postpartum process. In addition, they're involved in active and post-labor recovery stages, infant nursing, and neonatal care.

What is the difference between a labor and delivery nurse and an OB nurse? ›

These include neonatal nurses, who care for mothers immediately before, during, and after labor; and labor and delivery nurses, who focus on providing care during delivery. Unlike those specialists, an OB nurse provides care starting during the early stages of pregnancy or even when a woman is trying to conceive.


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