Obstetric (OB) nurses guide, support, and deliver care to women who embark on the exciting journey of motherhood. These same nurses are often introduced to women starting in their teens when women first require attention to their gynecological health. Obstetric nurses participate in pelvic exams, offer education and guidance on birth control methods and sexually transmitted diseases, and explain the need for mammograms in later years.
During pregnancy, an obstetrics nurse assists with prenatal exams, monitoring weight gain and lab work, and educating a new mother on her expectations. When a woman is in labor, the obstetrics nurse tracks a woman’s progress and alerts the delivery team when the mother is ready. After delivery, obstetric nurses attend to the new infant, who requires cleaning, vaccinations, and monitoring while assisting the new mother in her recovery from labor.
In a hospital, new mothers are cared for by obstetric nurses in a maternity ward. Here obstetric nurses coach and teach the new mother about her new role, guide her in lactation techniques, and provide postpartum care.
Obstetric nurses often receive advanced training to improve their skills in maternal care. Some become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) either as obstetrics nurse practitioners, women’s health nurse practitioners, or certified nurse-midwives.
Obstetric nurses perform some of the same activities as other nurses, but they are mainly focused on women’s health. OB nursing can be separated into prenatal, labor and delivery, post-delivery, and postpartum care. Each area has specific roles:
- Pregnancy care of monitoring weight, collecting lab work and urine for prenatal screening
- Assist the physician or NP during pelvic exams
- Provide counseling and education during pregnancy
Labor and Delivery:
- Monitor the mother and baby during labor, prep the woman for delivery, and keep the physician or CNM abreast of her status
- Attend and assist during delivery
- Labor coaching and pain management
- Assess newborn immediately after birth
- Monitors mom and newborn vital signs for any change in status
- Assist mother with lactation and post-delivery personal care
- Assist with bonding and newborn teaching
- Attend to incisions, provide ice, or pain medications
- Provide counseling and education
Obstetric nurses need to accurately assess women in any stage of labor. They also must be able to guide the woman and other team members down the path towards a successful delivery and beyond. Critical thinking skills, a strong ability to coach, and knowledge of other medical conditions that may interfere with a smooth birth are crucial.
Obstetric nurses know how to perform cervical exams, operate fetal monitors, and titrate medications to control labor.
They must be able to essentially care for two patients, the woman and her infant, at the same time.