An obstetrics nurse is a nursing professional who works with women throughout pregnancy, as well as during childbirth. This may include evaluation and care during labor and delivery, and postpartum care of the mother and child. Nurses in this field may treat patients throughout the process or focus solely on perinatal care or labor and delivery.
An individual who is interested in becoming an obstetrics nurse should earn, at the very least, a licensed practical nurse (LPN) degree. Due to the specialized care required in this field, many employers prefer those nurses with a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN). After earning such a degree, students in the United States are required to become licensed, by taking an exam given by their home state’s board of nursing. Further certification in obstetrics may then be obtained through the National Certification Corporation (NCC).
Once properly educated and licensed, an obstetrics nurse can seek a job in a doctor’s office or hospital. Duties in a physician's office may include taking vital signs, assisting with examinations and procedures, completing assessments, and maintaining examination rooms. In a hospital setting, the nurse may be asked to prepare delivery rooms, sterilize instruments, prepare patients, monitor patients, assist the doctor throughout the delivery, and provide care for babies immediately following birth.
During labor and delivery, the obstetrics nurse will monitor the patient as well as the fetus. Responsibilities typically include administration of medications to control pain, or substances like Rh immune-globulin and pitocin, or other drugs ordered by the doctor. It is the role of the nurse to report the patients' conditions and the progress of labor to the attending physician. The nurse provides most of the patient care up to the point of delivery, when the physician steps in and the nurse assists him.
In a hospital, an obstetrics nurse will likely offer support and education to postpartum mothers. By providing information and care, the nurse may help new mothers learn to care for themselves, as well as meet the needs of their newborns. Information about breastfeeding, care of the child’s umbilical cord, and general child care education may be offered, in adddition to instruction on personal postpartum care for the mother. Providing this instruction and care can help new parents learn, and adjust to parenthood.
While labor and delivery is often predictable, an obstetrics nurse must be prepared to handle unexpected complications for the mother or baby. Pre-term labor with premature delivery may indicate the need for emergency care for the newborn. Prolonged labor may put the fetus at risk for stress and infection. A breech birth can cause significant discomfort and may necessitate a Caesarean section to deliver the baby. These and other complications require an obstetrics nurse to work quickly, in conjunction with the doctor, to ensure the safety of both the mother and infant.