How to Become a Prenatal Nurse

Three Parts:Learning About the ProfessionCompleting Education and Training RequirementsDeveloping the Personality Traits and Skills

If you enjoy taking care of people and are interested in working with expectant mothers, then prenatal nursing may be the right profession for you. A prenatal nurse is a registered nurse who provides care to patients during and immediately after their pregnancy. If becoming a prenatal nurse sounds like something that interests you, learn more about the profession, the responsibilities involved, and the education and training it requires.

Part 1
Learning About the Profession

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    Understand the responsibilities. Before you can know if prenatal nursing is the right profession for you, it is important to understand exactly what a prenatal nurse does. Prenatal nurses provide care to expectant mothers, new mothers, and their babies.
    • Prenatal nurses are also sometimes referred to as as perinatal nurses or registered nurses.
    • Certified nurse midwifery (CNF) requires a Master's degree.[1]
    • The term prenatal, which means "from conception to birth," may be somewhat misleading because these nurses also provide care during and after the delivery. Perinatal refers to the weeks up to and directly after birth
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    Learn about what prenatal nurses do before a baby is born. Prenatal nurses perform the important task of helping to ensure women have a smooth pregnancy. They often perform the following tasks:[2][3]
    • Helping women understand and cope with the changes they will experience during pregnancy and childbirth.
    • Teaching expectant mothers about how to stay healthy during their pregnancy and defining healthy behaviors. It is imperative to explore lifestyle habits that may be dangerous to a developing fetus (illicit drug use, smoking, high blood pressure), family history of any genetic disorders, issues in pregnancy that could be passed down (pre-eclampsia/pregnancy induced hypertension, placental issues), or any other health concerns that could make the pregnancy a high risk.
    • Counseling families about childbirth options.
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    Explore the various job duties that will be required of you after the patient gives birth. Prenatal nurses also provide nursing care, support, and comfort to patients during and immediately after the delivery.
    • They teach parents about bonding with and caring for their new babies and any issues that may affect bonding.
    • This might involve helping new mothers and fathers learn about breastfeeding, umbilical cord care, proper positions for holding baby during feedings, instruction on diaper changing, tips for dealing with colicky and gassy babies, and many other conditions.
    • Other concerns may include postpartum depression, exploration of support concerns, housing concerns, or potential safety issues like unsafe environment, no home/housing available, etc.
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    Think about where you would work. Prenatal nurses work in hospitals, birthing centers, community centers, adult education centers, and physician’s offices.
    • If you wish to work independently of these facilities and take on your own clients, you will need an advanced degree and this must be be in the scope of practice as defined by your state. You must obtain licensure in the state where you work. You will also need a significant amount of experience.
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    Educate yourself about the job outlook. Before making a commitment to become a prenatal nurse, it’s helpful to learn about the job outlook for this profession and understand the level of compensation prenatal nurses receive. Although you should do your own research about the availability of prenatal nursing positions in your area, there are some facts below that might help you in making your decision.[4]
    • The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that job growth for nurses (including prenatal nurses, but also other types of nurses as well) will be significantly higher than other occupations.
    • The demand for registered and specialized nurses is generally high, because there are labor shortages in metropolitan and rural areas.
    • Prenatal nursing is one of the highest-paid nursing fields.
    • Salaries generally range between $50,000 to $90,000 depending on educational level, geographic location, and the type of facility where a prenatal nurse works.
    • Major metropolitan areas generally offer higher salaries, but the cost of living in these places can also be higher.
    • Prenatal nurses working in private physician’s offices often earn higher salaries than those working in hospitals.

Part 2
Completing Education and Training Requirements

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    Obtain a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing from an accredited school of nursing. Before specializing in prenatal nursing, you need to pursue and receive a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing, known as a BSN. In addition to completing general education requirements, BSN programs require students to take courses in anatomy, physiology, biology, nutrition, public health, emergency care, and other relevant subjects.[5]
    • While you can become a registered nurse with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), many employers prefer to hire applicants with BSNs.
    • If you are enrolled full time, a BSN degree usually takes about 3 to 4 years to complete.
    • If you already have an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), many schools offer accelerated RN-BSN programs. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement programs.
    • It can be helpful to contact an advisor at a college in your area to discuss the specifics of their BSN programs and the steps they recommend to become a prenatal nurse.
    • If you are a busy parent or don’t live near colleges with nursing programs, you might consider investigating online BSN programs, but understand that even online programs usually require you to complete a certain number of clinical hours.[6]
    • If you are interested in prenatal nursing, talk with your program’s advisor about potential internship and volunteer opportunities in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and birthing centers so that you can gain a better understanding of what prenatal nurses do and acquire more hands-on experience in this area of specialization.
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    Pass the National Council Licensure Examination to become a registered nurse. To become a prenatal nurse, you first have to become a registered nurse, which means you need to pass an examination known as the NCLEX-RN. This examination assesses critical thinking skills needed to make nursing judgments.[7].
    • Although the exam sounds daunting, your BSN degree is designed to prepare you for this test.
    • If you already have your RN certification before completing a BSN program, you do not have to take the NCLEX-RN.[8]
    • To take the exam, you have to contact the board of nursing in the area or region in which you wish to be licensed or registered.
    • This board will make sure you are eligible to take the exam, and provide you with details about the date, time, and format of the exam.
    • If you don’t pass the exam the first time, you can retake it in 45 days.[9]
    • Some states have additional licensure requirements, and these can usually be found on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website.
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    Complete a master’s degree in nursing and/or additional certification programs. If you are interested in an advanced field of nursing, such as becoming a certified nurse midwife, you will also need to pursue a master’s degree in nursing and/or complete additional certification programs.
    • At this level of your education, you will usually have the opportunity to acquire more hands-on clinical practice in perinatal care.
    • Some schools offer Perinatal Nurse Specialist (PNS) and Perinatal Nurse Practitioner (PNP) certification programs so that students can obtain more specialized training in the area of prenatal nursing.[10]
    • The American College of Midwives also offers certification programs to people who are currently in the nursing profession but would like to become a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), who provides prenatal care.[11][12]
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    Look for employment. After your education is complete, you can begin to look for employment in various places such as hospitals, birthing centers, adult education centers and physician’s offices. [13]
    • Many graduate programs help students find employment after they have completed required coursework and certifications.
    • Prenatal nurses can also seek out your own pregnant clients and enter the workforce as an independent prenatal nurse working for yourself. However, many people choose to do this later on in their career after they have gained valuable experience working with trained staff in a professional setting.

Part 3
Developing the Personality Traits and Skills

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    Have the desire to help and to nurture people. As a prenatal nurse, you will spend much of your time caring for pregnant women who are dealing with a great deal of stress and struggling to adjust to the changes that pregnancy brings.[14]
    • If you do not like babies, prenatal nursing might not be the nursing career for you.
    • You will have to empathize with your patients and be responsive to their needs so they have confidence in your abilities.
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    Be a good listener. As a prenatal nurse, being a good listener is of the utmost importance. Your patients will be communicating how they are feeling at each visit, and they will also be discussing very personal topics and sharing intimate details about their day-to-day lives.[15]
    • It is important that you listen to what your patients have to say, not only for diagnostic purposes, but also because it will help to make your patients feel more comfortable and trusting of your care.
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    Deal well with pressure. Prenatal nurses face difficult and stressful situations such as the delivery room. As a result, they need to work well under pressure.[16]
    • Their patients and the other healthcare professionals they are working with are counting on prenatal nurses to be calm and make decisions quickly.
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    Develop good communication skills. Prenatal nurses spend much of their time working with patients and other healthcare professionals, so excellent communication skills are a necessity.[17]
    • In many cases, prenatal nurses spend more time working directly with their patients and their families than doctors and due to this can become very close to patients. This can allow them to identify and assist in problem solving with the patients. As well as identifying risk factors that can be changed and/or that need to be monitored closely during pregnancy.
    • Prenatal nurses need to be able to convey complex information accurately, in a way that patients will understand.
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    Be a good record-keeper. Prenatal nurses are often responsible for recording and maintaining accurate and detailed medical records.[18]
    • They should be good at taking notes and detail oriented.
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    Understand that you will be required to work long hours and have a flexible schedule. Prenatal nurses often have non-traditional work schedules because births can happen any time of day or night and they frequently deal with emergencies that occur during pregnancy. A flexible schedule and the ability to be available to your patients on short notice are important requirements for prenatal nurses.[19]
    • This can include working on holidays and weekends, and 10–12 hour shifts in the morning, afternoon, evening, or overnight.
    • It is also important to know that as a prenatal nurse, depending on the setting in which you work, you may be on call to your patients during their pregnancy. They may have questions for you at any time of the day or night and you will need to be available to answer those questions.
    • Because birth occurs on its own time schedule, you will need to be available and ready when your patients go into labor unexpectedly.


  • The prenatal nursing field is growing, and is one of the highest-paid nursing professions.
  • Talk with an academic advisor at an accredited college in your area to learn about the educational requirements for someone interested in a prenatal nursing career.

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