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Labor and Delivery: Nursing Specialty Breakdown

Written by Mariya Rizwan, PharmD

Labor and delivery nurses (L&D nurses), also known as maternity or obstetric nurses, are specialized nurses who care for women during labor, delivery, and after delivery.

L&D is stressful for all moms and moms-to-be. Being a L&D nurse allows you to support them while caring for them and helping them deliver the baby. L&D nurses provide educational and physical support and advocate for them during their child-birthing process.

L&D nurses play an essential role in the healthcare sector, as L&D can be an overwhelming experience. As an L&D nurse, you care for the mother from when she gets to the hospital until the delivery time, if it happens during the period of your shift. However, in long deliveries, more than one nurse looks after the patient in different shifts. The nurse continuously monitors the fetal heart rate and the mother's vital signs. The job of an L&D nurse differs from other nursing specialties. As an L&D nurse, you can work at hospitals or birth centers.

How to Become a Labor And Delivery Nurse

To become an L&D nurse, follow these steps:

Become a Registered Nurse

Before pursuing any specialization in the nursing field, you have to become a registered nurse. To become that, you can choose any one pathway from the three:

  • Associate degree in nursing (ADN)
  • Bachelor of science in nursing (BSN)
  • Direct-entry master's degree in nursing (MSN)

After graduating as a nurse, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) exam to obtain a license to practice as a registered nurse. This exam will test your knowledge and skills in nursing care at the entry-level.

Gain Experience

After becoming a registered nurse, gain at least two years of working experience. If you plan to specialize in L&D, gain experience related to that, such as in postpartum care or neonatal care.

Pursue The Specialization

Once you gain experience working as a nurse, you can shift your job to L&D and work as an L&D nurse. Extra coursework or certifications, such as Inpatient Obstetric Nursing certification offered by the National Certification Corporation, are often required. When you become a certified nurse, you become more marketable.

Continuing Education and Recertification

As with all nursing professions, complete your continuing education hours and get recertifications. The rules vary from state to state. Therefore, you must check them with the state you live in or want to practice.

The exact policies differ on where you work, your state requirements, and your previous education.

Why Should One Become A Delivery Nurse?

L&D nursing is a lucrative career with jobs in demand. It is also a source of fulfillment. Delivery is welcoming a new life to this world. Sometimes, the outcome is happy, but sometimes it can be sad too. You make a genuine connection with your patients when they are vulnerable, in pain, and going through a rough time. You are always their hope when they are in the labor room. Being an L&D nurse, you are a part of someone's birth story.

What Skills And Traits Are Required To Be An L&D Nurse?

L&D nurses have to be quite sharp in their skills. They should be adept at treating the patient. However, they also need soft skills that make them a successful L&D nurse. Those traits are:


Being an L&D nurse, you have to have good communication skills. You have to counsel and explain everything to the patient's family. With that, you must calm the patient, enquire about their pain levels, and explain their treatment.

Efficient communication skills will also help you to have a good rapport with your teammates and colleagues.

Problem-Solving Skills

As an L&D nurse, you must constantly solve problems, check patients' pain levels, and judge their health status. You also have to make time-appropriate decisions while considering the health of the mother and the baby. You should have good judgment skills, decision-making power, responsiveness, and critical thinking ability.

Being an L&D nurse means taking a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. Therefore, you should be responsible enough to care for this special population.

Time Management

In the labor room, multiple patients give birth simultaneously. With that, you also have other various jobs to do. You need time management skills to prioritize patient delivery and other tasks and get them done timely.


To handle deliveries, you have to work in a large team. You must switch your duties with the other staff as the shift ends. All this requires efficient teamwork abilities and patience. Therefore, you should have these qualities as an L&D nurse.


A labor nurse has to take care of patients in pain for a long time. You must be soft and empathetic with your patients because they may become irritated after enduring long and severe pain. Be kind and gentle to them.

What are the Job Responsibilities of a Labor And Delivery Nurse?

L&D nurses can work in hospitals or birth centers where they assist with deliveries. Each day, they care for a few expectant mothers, handle whatever comes their way, and check their progress. They also look after the patient when she is done with the delivery and is hospitalized.

The basic responsibilities of a L&D nurse are:

  • Monitor the mother's vitals, such as heart rate and blood pressure, and the labor progress.
  • Monitor fetal heart rate and report any abnormalities.
  • Offer emotional and physical support to the birthing mom. Give them tips that can help ease their pain.
  • Educate the patient about labor, delivery, breastfeeding, and postpartum care.
  • Make sure the birthing environment is clean and sterile.
  • Provide all the instruments and supplies to the obstetrician while assisting with the delivery.
  • Document the birth process.
  • Administer pain relief medications, medications to stop or induce labor, and also administer epidural anesthesia to the patient when needed.
  • For emergencies, labor nurses are trained to help the doctor with a cesarean section or newborn resuscitation.
  • After delivery, assess the baby's health status and take postpartum care of the mother.

The roles of an L&D nurse may vary depending on the region and organizational rules. No matter your job role, the main goal is to provide efficient care to moms during and after delivery.

Benefits of Working as an L&D Nurse

Working as a labor and delivery nurse has the following benefits:

Bringing Life into the World

As an L&D nurse, you bring new life into this world, which is an incredible experience. That can give you inner satisfaction and joy. For most moms, birthing a child is the most memorable moment of their life. You will be a part of someone's best part of life.

You Can Travel

Being a L&D nurse, you can take a plane, travel the world, and work at different places. Being able to work at various places gives you more experience and memorable moments. Traveling is an excellent perk of being an L&D nurse.

Study Further

L&D nurses can also get scholarships to pursue further studies, or some hospitals also fund that so that you can study further. If you have an associate’s degree, you can go ahead for a bachelor's degree or pursue a master's degree after the bachelor's degree.

Pursue Various Specializations

Even after becoming an L&D nurse, you can pursue different specializations. You can work as an antepartum nurse who cares for mothers hospitalized before delivery or as a postpartum nurse.

Long Time Off

Often, L&D nurses work a 12-hour shift, so the off time they get is long. That can help you keep a good work-life balance. You can also work overtime and gain additional income.

Plenty Of Work Opportunities

Babies keep coming into this world all the time. So, the process of delivery never stops. As a L&D nurse, you will have plenty of work opportunities and a high employment demand.

Lucrative Salary

L&D nurses have a lucrative career. Your income may vary depending on the state in which you live and your education and experience, but you can earn a handsome sum.

The mean annual salary for an L&D nurse is $99,043, which is around $47.62 an hour.

You can earn around $81,000 annually at the entry-level or about $39 per hour.

In the mid-level, you can earn $55.05 per hour, about $114,000 annually.

You can make a top-level L&D nurse salary of $64.42 an hour or $134,000 a year.

So, being an L&D nurse, you will always be in demand and earn a lot. That gives enough financial security and peace.

The Bottom Line

To pursue your career as an L&D nurse, the following tips can be helpful:

  • Shadow an L&D nurse to know the roles, demands, and expectations. If you enjoy it, pursue your dream of becoming one.
  • Pursue additional training such as continuing education and certificates or courses that make you an impressive choice for employers and help you gain new skills.
  • Join a relevant association that helps you network with people with relevant experience.

You can enjoy a fulfilling career with a decent income as an L&D nurse — best of luck in your future endeavors.

About the Author:

Mariya Rizwan is an experienced pharmacist who has been working as a medical writer for four years. Her passion lies in crafting articles on topics ranging from Pharmacology, General Medicine, Pathology to Pharmacognosy.

Mariya is an independent contributor to CEUfast’s Nursing Blog Program.

Please note that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog post are solely of the independent contributor and do not necessarily represent those of CEUfast. This blog post is not medical advice. Always consult with your personal healthcare provider for any health-related questions or concerns.

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