The postpartum or mother-baby nurse is tasked with caring for both mother and newborn baby once a birth has taken place. This nurse utilizes a strong set of skills to recognize and act upon postpartum emergencies for both patients. The postpartum nurse appreciates a busy working environment and the challenge of quickly detecting complications from childbirth. A large part of this nurse's job is teaching new mothers how to properly care for herself as well as her newborn after the delivery. Lactation nurses are often postpartum nurses who have become certified.
After the nursing student graduates school and becomes licensed as an RN, he/she is then able to apply for a postpartum nursing position. Working in this specialized area is usually available to new graduate RNs but will require training after hire. This is usually accomplished through didactic, or textbook, learning, as well as working closely with a preceptor to learn how to critically think like a postpartum nurse should. Experienced nurses can also make the switch into postpartum by applying to a hospital or Birthing Center's listing. At most facilities, at least 1 year of bedside experience is required.
Often, nurses who wish to work in labor/delivery are required to start in postpartum before they are eligible to apply.
What Are the Education Requirements for Postpartum Nurses?
Postpartum nurses are required to have an RN license from the state in which he/she will practice nursing. The RN license can be applied for after meeting the State Board of Nursing's requirements, which consist of earning at least an ADN from an accredited nursing school and passing the NCLEX-RN.
Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?
A few certifications are available for postpartum nurses. First, the Electronic Fetal Monitoring certification is a requirement at many hospitals.
The other main certification is the Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN). This certification demonstrates expertise and dedication to the specialty. While not required to be hired into the position, this certification is often required by hospitals after some years of employment. It requires 24-months of employment in the specialty.
The postpartum nurse works primarily in the postpartum or maternity unit of a hospital. They can also work in birthing centers, which have grown in popularity in recent years. Other places that employ postpartum nurses include clinics and private practices. Postpartum nurses work closely with other medical professionals, including OB-GYN doctors, labor and delivery specialty nurses, nursery nurses, lactation consultants, and more.
Postpartum nurses provide important physical and emotional care and recovery for both the new mom and the newborn baby following a delivery. They are trained to educate the new mother and watch for signs of postpartum depression, and may work in tandem with a lactation consultant to assist with breastfeeding. A large part of their role is providing support for the mother in any way that's needed.
What Are the Roles and Duties of a Postpartum Nurse?
- Assess and monitor the new mother after delivery to ensure proper recovery and healing
- Clean and monitor the newborn baby
- Check vital signs
- Check caesarian incisions if applicable
- Remove catheters after delivery
- Dispense pain medication and/or antibiotics as needed
- Provide education to new parents regarding how to care for an infant
- Help the new mother with the emotional aspects of the birth recovery
- Work with lactation consultants to help the new mother breastfeed
A postpartum nurse has a median salary in the US of $65,077. Location, experience, certifications, and education affect the salary.
With no shortage of births in the country, postpartum nursing has a favorable employment outlook. Some nurses gain experience in postpartum nursing and then go on to work as a lactation nurse, labor and delivery nurse, or other maternity specialty, making it a versatile career move. Postpartum nurses must be able to handle working odd hours, as babies are born at all times of the day and night.
- Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses
- Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association
- The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing
- Nursing for Women's Health Journal
- Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing
Postpartum Nurse FAQs
As more awareness is being raised about post-partum depression, many healthcare organizations are taking steps to include post-partum depression screening in the nurse’s assessment process.
Nurses first assess for risk factors for post-partum depression. Reviewing medical and mental health history is critical. Patients with a history (or family history) of depression, post-partum depression with a previous pregnancy, abuse, anxiety, stress, or other mental disorders place the new mom at higher risk. Low socioeconomic status, lack of support, and high levels of stress in the home are also risk factors.
Assessment also includes observing the way the new mom interacts with the newborn and even others. Mothers with post-partum depression may exhibit outward signs and symptoms such as irritability, crying, lack of motivation, sleeping too much (or not sleeping), and appearing “withdrawn.”
Some healthcare organizations have implemented questionnaires for mothers in the post-partum period which can measure the risk or degree of post-partum depression. Based on the results, appropriate interventions are initiated such as social work or psychiatric referral. In some cases, new mothers are started on medications to get them through the post-partum period.