What Is a Postpartum Nurse?
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Postpartum nurses care for new mothers from the time they leave the delivery room until they are discharged home. In addition to providing support for their patients' physical and emotional needs, postpartum nurses offer education and guidance in caring for a newborn.
Learn more about this specialized role for registered nurses in the following guide.
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What Does a Postpartum Nurse Do?
Postpartum nurses care for women and infants in the days immediately following birth. In addition to performing medical care and monitoring for complications in both the patient and baby, they fill an important need for education and support.
Whether a patient is giving birth to their first child or already has several children at home, a postpartum nurse is there to help with recovery after delivery.
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- Assessing for postpartum hemorrhage
- Evaluating if epidurals or anesthesia have worn off before the patient moves
- Ensuring skin-to-skin bonding
- Monitoring vital signs
- Assisting new parents with recovery, including physical assistance, wound care, and administering medication
- Performing newborn assessments: blood draws, first bath
- Providing education on newborn care, breastfeeding, and postpartum recovery
- Providing breastfeeding support and assistance
- Offering emotional support
- Teaching skills
- Physical stamina
Where Do Postpartum Nurses Work?
Postpartum nurses work in a variety of settings. They often work in hospitals — mostly in maternity or women’s health departments — and in birthing centers. Physician’s offices and community health clinics may also have postpartum nurses on staff.
How to Become a Postpartum Nurse?
Becoming a postpartum nurse begins with becoming a licensed RN. This requires earning a nursing degree, either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).
These degrees qualify nurses for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). This standardized test evaluates a nursing school graduate's knowledge and skills in providing general nursing care. All states require nurses to pass the exam to attain licensure.
Taking courses in maternal and infant care in nursing school can prepare entry-level RNs for work as postpartum nurses.
After two years of experience in the field, postpartum nurses can seek certification in maternal newborn nursing (RNC-MNN) or electronic fetal monitoring. They can also seek advanced education to earn a master's or doctoral degree, possibly increasing their career opportunities and earning potential.
How Much Do Postpartum Nurses Make?
According to limited August 2022 Payscale data, the median hourly wage for a postpartum nurse is $27.67. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not list specific salary data for postpartum nurses, but reports a median annual salary of $77,600 per year for all RNs.
Geographic location, work environment, and nurse experience and certifications all influence postpartum nurse salaries.
BLS projections suggest a 6%, or average, job growth for RNs between 2021 and 2031. Although the overall birth rate in the U.S. is declining, more than 3.5 million babies are born every year. Postpartum nurses help care for these new arrivals and their families.
Frequently Asked Questions about Postpartum Nurses
How long does it take to become a postpartum nurse?
It takes 2-4 years to become a postpartum nurse. An ADN to become a registered nurse takes two years, while a BSN requires four years of study. Earning a relevant certification in maternal newborn nursing or electronic fetal monitoring requires at least two years of work experience as a postpartum nurse. Bridge programs or residencies through larger medical centers may condense this time frame.
What's the difference between a postpartum nurse and a perinatal nurse?
While postpartum nurses provide care after a patient gives birth, a perinatal nurse is part of the team that provides care during pregnancy and in the delivery room. Perinatal nurses often work with obstetricians and serve as a patient’s primary care provider during pregnancy. They support a healthy pregnancy through education and monitoring for potential complications like gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Once the baby is born, care for the mother and child shifts to the postpartum nurse.
What role does the nurse have in postpartum care?
Nurses are vital to ensuring that postpartum patients and their newborns remain healthy. They provide critical medical care and monitoring to help prevent complications and respond to emergencies. Support and education are also integral aspects of their role, as they spend a great deal of time teaching new parents how to care for themselves and their babies.
Is postpartum nursing stressful?
Postpartum nursing is busy and requires juggling many responsibilities throughout a single shift. Nurses often have to pivot frequently to meet their patients’ needs. Despite the fast pace of the role, it is often not as stressful as other nursing specialties. There are exceptions, such as when a patient has complications and needs emergency care.
Page Last Reviewed: September 18, 2022
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