Labor and delivery nurses are given the unparalleled chance to guide women through one of the most transformative and magical moments of their lives – giving birth to new life. Labor and delivery nurses are registered nurses with specialty training in maternal-child health who help mothers bring their newborn babies safely into the world. Throughout the antepartum, intrapartum, postpartum, and neonatal stages of childbirth, labor and delivery nurses provide complete care for both mothers and their infants. Most nurses in this fast-paced, rewarding career do this in hospitals, community clinics, physicians’ offices, maternity wards, and other birthing centers. Labor and delivery nurses specialize in obstetrics nursing to guide new mothers through the unforgettable experience of meeting their children.


According to the BLS, the average annual salary for all registered nurses, including labor and delivery nurses, is $68,910. However, in most regions nationwide, RNs with specialty certifications related to maternal-child nursing earned slightly higher at $70,618. The Advance Healthcare Network for Nurses found that labor and delivery nurses working in the West earn the highest mean yearly salary at $82,920.

Beginning Salary

Labor and delivery nurses with little to no experience can expect to fall into the lower spectrum for wages with an average annual salary under $45,630. While this may seem low, it’s important to note that labor and delivery nurses have the potential to make a sizeable six-figure salary over $96,320 later in their career. Those who become Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) can even bring home more than $120,540 each year.

Key Responsibilities

Labor and delivery nurses are given the hefty responsibility of assisting, supporting, and educating women throughout the childbirth process. Before labor, nurses may monitor the fetal heart rate, record the mother’s vital signs, measure the timing of contractions, administer epidurals, induce labor, and perform any needed diagnostic tests. Then, labor and delivery nurses will coach mothers and assist physicians through the delivery, including by Cesarean section. Once the newborn has emerged, the labor and delivery nurse will perform a thorough assessment on the baby and coordinate all further care. Labor and delivery nurses also will educate new families on caring for their infant and teach first-time mothers how to breastfeed.

Necessary Skills

Childbirth can be a terrifying event for some women affected by unforeseen complications, so it’s essential that labor and delivery nurses remain caring, compassionate, supportive, and emotionally stable throughout the birth. Solid interpersonal skills are a must because labor and delivery nurses will spend a large amount of their day communicating with patients, families, obstetricians, and other healthcare providers. Labor and delivery nurses should have good time management and organizational skills to prioritize their patients’ needs well. To ensure a healthy delivery, labor and delivery nurses should also display good judgment, pay close attention to details, make quick critical decisions, and have mastery of medical technology.

Degree and Education Requirements

Labor and delivery nurses must first earn their RN license to legally practice in their state. At this time, there are three acceptable pathways for individuals to become registered nurses through accredited nursing schools. You can complete a one to two-year nursing diploma program, earn an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) at a community college, or enter college to achieve a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Due to the high level of specialized skills and knowledge needed in labor and delivery, employers often will prefer nurses who have completed a four-year undergraduate degree. If you’re looking to move into advanced practice positions, returning to graduate school for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree could also help you become a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) for performing normal vaginal deliveries.

Pros and Cons of this Position

Labor and delivery nurses have the ability to touch the lives of thousands of new babies and mothers each year by providing comfort throughout the childbirth process. Many labor and delivery nurses report a high level of satisfaction from being the first person a new baby sees when he or she opens their eyes for the first time. This nursing specialty also offers a decent salary potential, good benefits, and the strong potential for career growth. As with other professions, there are some downsides to becoming a labor and delivery nurse. Nurses in maternity centers sometimes deal with the stress and pressure of handling childbirth complications that could turn fatal for mother or child. Labor and delivery nurses have a physically demanding job where they must be on their feet for long 12-hour shifts. Many also have irregular shifts that rotate from daytime to nighttime and into weekends.

Getting Started

Once you’ve received appropriate nursing training, you’ll need to prove your basic nursing skills by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) for becoming a registered nurse. This exam simply will measure your knowledge and technical skills to certify that you have the abilities needed to perform entry-level nursing jobs safely. With your RN credentials, you’ll then need to begin building experience as a staff nurse to eventually become hired as a labor and delivery nurse. It’s recommended that you take training courses related to fetal monitoring and neonatal resuscitation to expand your expertise in this specialty. You should also consider becoming certified through the National Certification Corporation (NCC) as an Inpatient Obstetric Nurse (RNC-OB) or Maternal Newborn Nurse (RNC-MNN). You’ll need to pay an application registration fee, show at least 2,000 hours of specialty experience, and pass a certification exam.

Future Outlook

With America’s healthcare policy changes placing a stronger emphasis on efficient and cost-effective medical services, there will likely be higher demand for labor and delivery nurses to help shorten the amount of time mothers spend in the hospital. Since many RNs in the large baby boomer population are reaching retirement age, there will also be more job availability created for new labor and delivery nurses. According to the BLS, employment of registered nurses will grow considerably faster than average at the rapid rate of 19 percent, which will provide around 526,800 new jobs across specialty areas by 2022. Labor and delivery nurses with a bachelor’s degree can expect to find a bundle of job prospects, especially in rural areas.

Overall, labor and delivery nurses are responsible for providing comprehensive care to new mothers and their babies from the time they entire the hospital until discharge. Labor and delivery nurses assist women in finding efficient methods for helping labor progress more quickly, comfortably, and safely. If you make the decision to specialize as a labor and delivery nurse, you could build a very rewarding career witnessing the miracle of birth every day.

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