How to Become a Maternity Nurse

Three Methods:Training to Be a Maternity NurseMaking Yourself an Attractive Candidate For a Maternity Nursing PositionFinding Work as a Maternity Nurse

With the exception of ICU nurses, labor and delivery or maternity nurses are considered to be among the most skilled nursing specialties. To be a labor and delivery nurse, you have to be able to take on multiple roles. Many labor and delivery nurses will help labor the patient, be the "baby nurse" for the newborn, be prepared to resuscitate the newborn, be able to work as a "scrub nurse", operating room circulator, and first assistant for the physician performing a cesarean. In addition to working in a variety of locations, maternity nurses can hold a variety of different licenses depending on their specialties and level of education. To become a maternity nurse you need to obtain the required education, experience, and training, and then seek employment in a healthcare setting.

Method 1
Training to Be a Maternity Nurse

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    Decide what kind of nursing degree you would like to pursue. This will vary depending on what you would like to specialize in and how much time you want to spend in school. Options include:
    • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) - A LPN program is 1 ½ years long. LPNs can become certified and licensed through community colleges or vocational schools. However, many LPNs are not used in a labor and delivery setting due to the specialty area that it is. Most LPNs are utilized in an office outside the hospital or medical surgical floor, rather than an ICU setting, Labor and Delivery, or pediatrics.[1]
    • Registered Nurse (RN) - The average registered nurse program is 2-4 years long, as it requires a bachelor's degree and 2 or 3 years of additional education. The RN’s role as a labor and delivery nurse can range depending on the hospital setting you work in. They can specialize in a wide variety of roles, including labor and delivery, antepartum, and postpartum care.[2]
    • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) - A CNS is a master's degree program. A CSN is an advanced practice nurse, a Master’s degree program, that may prescribe medication and do other duties as a physician. Therefore, a CNS in labor and delivery may specialize in the management clinically of the woman during pregnancy and labor and delivery. The CNS is also a great resource for nurses on the division, specializing in education.
    • Nurse Practitioner (NP) - A NP is a master's degree program. Nurse practitioners do specialize in neonatal care and are utilized in NICU and normal newborn nurseries. They usually help to triage patients and do not perform deliveries.
    • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNW) - A CNW is a master’s degree program. Midwives were the original nurse professionals in the labor and delivery world. Midwives are trained over a graduate level and are trained to support women in their pregnancy and labor and delivery. They are not able to do surgery on their patients, therefore, if a C-Section is needed or a vacuum or forceps assisted delivery, a physician will have to help them.
    • Most major labor delivery centers are not using LPNs in labor and delivery and instead are using RNs. At community hospitals, LPNs can sometimes get hired in that role, but still RNs are more common. There is a big difference between being a midwife and being a labor and delivery nurse, so you have to decide if you want to be the one managing the labor and performing the delivery, or if you want to be supporting the laboring mom. Assuming you have the right degrees, it is possible for you to fulfill multiple roles.
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    Train for general nursing during your degree program. Each nursing program has specific hours you will need to graduate, which are built into your nursing program. In addition to classroom learning, you will have to take hands-on courses, also known as clinicals. You will go through a short period of clinical experience in labor and delivery and postpartum care. This gives you a view into the world of a labor nurse to see if it is something you would be interested in pursuing.
    • However, this experience will not give you thorough training like you will get once you are on the job. [3]
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    Learn the specifics of maternity nursing by working in a hospital maternity ward or obstetric practice, or by observing a practicing midwife. The variety of nursing jobs in the maternity ward vary from an antepartum nurse, triage nurse, labor nurse, delivery nurse, scrub nurse, circulating nurse (in the operating room), postpartum nurse, lactation nurse, and newborn nurse.
    • Start by contacting your local hospital’s volunteer program. The director can help guide you on a shadowing experience. This can be done during nursing school to see if it is a hospital you would like to work in.
    • Maternity wards are not the same everywhere. Touring and volunteering your time can be a great way to see if you feel like you would fit in at that particular facility.
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    Get a nursing license in your state or region. You will need to visit the website of the state board of nursing in your specific state to see the qualifications for each test.[4] Before you begin a specialty in maternity nursing, you must be a licensed nurse.
    • Each state regulates its own license application procedure.
    • Becoming a midwife requires a Master’s degree in nursing and passing the midwifery certification.[5]
    • For all types of maternity nursing you need to enroll and pass a nursing program and apply to take and pass the NCLEX (the exam for licensure) before applying for a job.
    • The nursing licensing test is a combination of high comprehension questions to make you critically think about everything you learned in nursing school.

Method 2
Making Yourself an Attractive Candidate For a Maternity Nursing Position

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    Consider getting additional certifications. There are optional ways to advance your degree even after you are a certified nurse. For instance, you can become a lactation consultant, which is a nurse who helps assist women with breastfeeding.[6] To become a lactation consultant, you can take a specific exam and complete hours of clinical time caring for breastfeeding women.
    • You can also become certified in different areas of labor and delivery.[7] Options for maternity nurses certifications are Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB), Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN), Low Risk Neonatal Nursing (RNC-LRN), and Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC).
    • Nurse certification benefits patients, families, employers, and the nurse. The certified nurse becomes important to their patient because their patient knows they are experts in their specialty. Employers want certified nurses because it shows professionalism and retention. It shows the nurse loves what she or he does and wants to continue to learn. As for the nurse, it benefits him or her because of the sense of achievement in their career.[8]
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    Get specific maternity experience anywhere you can. Work for doctors and midwives, or volunteer at the hospital. You can even try to become a nurse’s aide in the area that interests you.
    • Although you should try to get experience before you get the job, once you are hired you can expect on the job training that will prepare you for the actual work of maternity nursing.
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    Work on the appropriate skills needed for maternity nursing. For example, you must be able to handle pressure and stay organized in stressful situations. In addition, communication and good interpersonal skills are essential.
    • Learn to educate people. You will have to teach women how to nurse, partners how to encourage, and new parents how to care for their babies. Be sure you know exactly what you are teaching. Your patients will have questions and, as a specialized nurse, it is important to be able to answer those questions with accurate information.
    • Work on staying physically and emotionally strong. Many new labor and delivery nurses are on night shift and that shift can exhaust anyone.[9] Assisting doctors and women during childbirth can be exhausting, and you will need to be prepared for any possible outcome during the pregnancies of your patients.

Method 3
Finding Work as a Maternity Nurse

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    Look for jobs that match your license and skill level. The employment outlook for the entire nursing field is promising; nurses are in high demand as the healthcare field grows. Some positions will require a certain degree level or previous experience, so you may not qualify for all maternity nursing positions.
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    Begin your search before you leave nursing school. Take advantage of your program's job placement services to interview with different employers. Also be sure to make a good impression during your training and clinicals; you will often be supervised by working healthcare professionals who are looking for new talent.
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    Attend healthcare job fairs. Talk to representatives about your interest in maternity nursing. Even if you do not find a job, your networking skills will improve and potentially lead you someone who can help you find the right job.
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    Check job listings. Many hospitals, physicians, and healthcare centers advertise for maternity nurses in the newspaper and online. Search general online employment sites, such as CareerBuilder, Indeed, and Simply Hired, but also look at nursing-specific sites as well. The most popular job sites for nurses of any specialty include and #Network with maternity nurses. Get to know the professionals in your field. They can become your friends and confidants but they can also share information with you when a job opening pops up.
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    Enlist with a placement agency. Companies such as Maxim Staffing, NurseFinders and FlexRN specialize in placing nurses in jobs. Discuss your interest in maternity nursing with these agencies and see what they can find for you.
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    Be adventurous! Find a travel nursing agency to work for as a maternity nurse, with like Medical staffing solutions or Flex Care Staff. The one drawback to this option is that you do generally need at least one year of experience before becoming a travel nurse.


  • Continue your training and stay current in the field of maternity nursing. Your license will depend on continuing education, certifications, and clinical renewals. Sign up for ACOG and AWHONN and you will have access to the most recent research out there.
  • Keep your focus on maternity nursing, but make sure your training and experience includes areas that overlap. For example, experience with surgeons in an operating room will help prepare you for cesarean sections. Working with pediatric physicians will help you educate new parents on what to expect as their babies grow and develop.

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