Labor and delivery nurses, also known as L&D nurses, are registered nurses who work to provide nursing care for expectant patients during labor and childbirth under the supervision of an obstetrician or nurse midwife. Labor and delivery nurses in some facilities also provide postpartum and newborn care.
In this blog post, we will explain the responsibilities of the labor and delivery nurse, including their daily tasks, the different types of labor and delivery nurses, and the various settings where they can work. We'll also share some first-hand accounts from labor and delivery nurses so you can hear directly from these nurses on the various roles and responsibilities involved in their careers.
Types of Labor and Delivery Nurses
Many people don't realize that there are multiple types of nurses providing care during the perinatal period. While this nursing specialty is a niche of its own, it can actually be further subdivided into various roles.
Ultimately, the scope of a labor and delivery nurse's role will depend on their place of work, how many nurses are staffed there, and what patients' needs are—so while some nurses may find themselves doing all of the following roles, others may focus on one specific area of obstetric nursing.
The following are four types of nurses working with patients in the perinatal period surrounding labor and delivery:
- Labor and delivery nurse: In this role, a nurse assists during labor, delivery, and up to two hours after delivery for recovery.
- Postpartum or mother and baby nurse - This nurse provides care for patients after initial recovery and helps patients get acquainted with their newborns, teaching them how to breastfeed and provide infant care.
- Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse - This nurse cares for infants born prematurely or with other medical complications.
- Newborn nursery nurse - This nurse works to examine, treat and monitor newborns, providing care in the nursery.
To learn more about these nursing types, you can watch this helpful video, which further explains OB/GYN nursing.
Where Do Labor and Delivery Nurses Work?
Labor and delivery nurses typically work in the following settings:
- Delivery rooms: This is where labor and delivery nurses monitor patient vitals, contractions, and dilation progress during labor, support patients, and update family members and physicians.
- Maternity units: Here, nurses monitor patient vitals, care for patients and their newborns, and educate families on infant care.
- Birthing centers: In these alternative childbirth facilities that operate in the midwifery and wellness model, nurses assist midwives and patients during labor and postpartum.
What Do Labor and Delivery Nurses Do Daily?
Labor and delivery nurses work as a part of the care management team with physicians, anesthesiologists, midwives, charge nurses, and lactation nurses. Ultimately, labor and delivery nurses provide care and support to individuals giving birth, whether it is before, during, or after delivery.
The following is a detailed list of what these nurses do daily:
- Charting a patient’s obstetric history
- Administering medication and immunizations
- Providing care and guidance, including emotional support during labor
- Monitoring the birthing patient's vital signs, contractions, and fetal heartbeat during labor and in postpartum recovery
- Assessing patients in triage for preterm and active labor, pregnancy complications, or coexisting issues, including the following:
- Performing vaginal exams to measure cervical dilation
- Monitoring contractions and fetal heartbeat during labor
- Checking the newborn's heart rate, muscle tone, and other vitals to determine their Apgar score
- Preparing the operating room for a cesarean delivery, which includes organizing tools for the obstetrician and assisting with obstetric and gynecological procedures
- Supporting new parents in breastfeeding and newborn care
- Educating patients and families on infant and postpartum care after delivery
Personal Accounts from Labor and Delivery Nurses
To better understand the role of labor and delivery nurses, as well as some of the pros and cons of this nursing specialty, you can watch the following videos where nurses share first-hand accounts of OB/GYN nursing:
- Day in the Life of a Labor and Delivery Nurse
- Behind the Scenes: Being a Labor and Delivery Nurse
- Week in the Life of a Labor and Delivery Nurse
- Day in the Life of a Night Shift Labor and Delivery Nurse
Final Thoughts | What Do Labor and Delivery Nurses Do?
Labor and delivery nurses are essential in caring for pregnant individuals, their babies, and their families, who need instructions on caring for newborns. You may be drawn to this nursing specialty if you love working with babies and want to support individuals during a life-changing experience.
This blog post shared the definition of a labor and delivery nurse and answered questions regarding the following: What is the role of a labor and delivery nurse? What does a labor and delivery nurse do? And what are the duties of a delivery nurse?
To learn more about this nursing specialty and get answers to the most frequent questions—how much do labor and delivery nurses make, is labor and delivery nursing hard, and what are the best tips for labor and delivery nursing—please refer to Nursa's comprehensive guide on obstetrics (OB/GYN) nursing.