How to become a labor and delivery nurse

Written by Kate Lopaze

If you’re already a registered nurse, or are thinking about becoming one, you might want to consider specializing in labor and delivery. These OB/GYN professionals provide essential support for women throughout the entire childbirth process, in a specialty that is expected to continue growing significantly over the next ten years.

What do labor and delivery nurses do?

Labor and delivery nurses work directly with pregnant patients from the earliest stages of labor through birth and immediate postpartum care. Their responsibilities may include the following:

  • Supporting patients through every stage of childbirth (antepartum, intrapartum, postpartum, and neonatal)
  • Inducing labor
  • Monitoring the mother and baby’s vital signs
  • Administering medications and starting IV lines
  • Measuring contractions
  • Identifying and assisting with childbirth complications
  • Assisting in operations like cesarean sections (C-sections)
  • Providing postpartum care and support
  • Educating and advising new mothers on postnatal care

Labor and delivery nurses typically work 12-hour shifts, including potential overnight or weekend shifts. Most labor and delivery nurses work in hospitals, but the number of birthing-specific medical centers all over the country is increasing.

What skills do labor and delivery nurses have?

Labor and delivery nurses have the same general skill set as all registered nurses, but also need some additional specific skills for the obstetric specialty.

Medical Skills and Knowledge: Nurses need to have detailed medical knowledge from an accredited educational program. Labor and delivery nurses also need to have additional knowledge of obstetrics, gynecology, and childbirth in general.

Bedside Manner: Labor and delivery nurses work with patients in very vulnerable and high-stress situations, so a good bedside manner (including empathy and patience) is essential.

Problem Solving Skills: Because of the high stakes of working with laboring and delivering patients, these nurses need to be prepared for everything that can possibly go wrong—and be able to troubleshoot or have a plan in place for things that can’t be anticipated. Labor and delivery nurses are responsible for monitoring patients through every stage of childbirth, helping to ensure safety at every stage.

Communication Skills: Part of a safe delivery is making sure that communication is happening between the medical staff and patients and ensuring that all doctors and nurses are aware of a patient’s condition and vital signs—including potential complications. Clear communication can be the most essential part of supporting a patient throughout the process.

What do you need to become a labor and delivery nurse?

Registered nurses need to complete an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree program from an accredited nursing school. Additionally, nurses who choose to specialize in labor and delivery can receive additional training to become Certified Nurse Midwives or Nurse Practitioners in obstetrics and gynecology. All states require nurses to be licensed, so be sure to check your own state’s requirements.

How much do labor and delivery nurses make?

According to the, registered labor and delivery nurses make a median salary of $61,076, or $29.92 per hour. This can increase based on level of experience.

What is the outlook for labor and delivery nurses?

This field has two major things going for it: the boom in healthcare careers in general, and the fact that more and more babies will continue to be born. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that registered nurse demand in general will grow by more than 16% by 2024, and the labor and delivery field will have perennial demand as well.

If you’re thinking about specializing in labor and delivery nursing, it can be a very rewarding career path in the healthcare field. Good luck!

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.