Labor and delivery nurses have the honor of helping moms as they reach the end of pregnancy. They stand by your side as you welcome new family members into your lives. It’s safe to say it may be the best job around! Of course, it isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, and those days can be really, really hard.
Many women bond with their labor and delivery nurse and most often want to take them home with them when they’re discharged! As an expecting or new mama, you may be wondering what a labor and delivery nurse does, especially after you have gotten to know your midwife or obstetrician so well over the last several months of your pregnancy.
What Do Labor and Delivery Nurses Do?
As a labor and delivery nurse with almost ten years of experience, it’s safe to say I could execute my duties with my eyes closed. (don’t worry, I won’t!!) However, patients and clients often ask me, “What exactly do you do?” I will outline some of the things you may experience with your labor and delivery nurse!
Each birth place is set up a bit differently, so of course, keep that in mind when reading through this! Some birth places have a triage unit where you will be assessed before being admitted. Often it is labor and delivery nurses who run these triage beds. However, sometimes these nurses are specific and are called “triage nurses,” and then once admitted, you may be passed off to a different nurse who will be caring for you through your labor and birth.
Paperwork and Labs
Once admitted to the labor and delivery unit, you will find that your nurse is quite busy! They will likely start by helping get you settled into your room, sign and review admission paperwork, start an intravenous catheter, draw lab work, and apply monitoring equipment. Of course, depending on your plan of care, this series of events may happen in a much quicker or perhaps a slower manner.
You may find certain periods of the hospital process overwhelming. However, I am always reminding my clients and patients that throughout the admission, labor, birth, postpartum, and discharge period, your nurse will be there to help educate and support you, as well as advocate for you! Use your nurses as your biggest resource during your hospital stay. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or even ask them their opinion. And don’t forget, many of us have been doing this for many years, and we are on your team and want the best for each and every one of our patients.
Medical charting is another critical piece of the labor and delivery process. While it may seem strange, you will find your nurse often has her head buried in the computer. We track your medical information and history and document your fetal heart rate tracing. We’ll also keep track of vital signs, medications, procedures, interventions, conversations with other medical care providers, and more. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as sometimes we may forget to mention something important to you.
There is a lot of medical equipment and supplies that go into labor and birth. We’re often like little ninjas moving in and out of the room, bringing equipment and necessary items in and out. Sometimes these goodies are for taking care of mama and sometimes for taking care of a baby. Again, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Sometimes the equipment may look overwhelming or scary. Often it is just for emergencies and isn’t even used, so try not to worry!
There is a lot of coordination of care that goes with labor and delivery. We will be in communication with your provider, the anesthesiologist, other nurses on the floor, pediatric providers (if needed), and case management if there are special circumstances. Each patient will receive care tailored to them, which is essential for providing well-rounded support and care. During your pregnancy, please discuss any important facts that may be relevant to your labor and delivery. We can take this all into account and provide care specific to you, your health, and your baby!
Vitals and Medicines
We will be assessing you quite frequently. We check your vital signs, check your belly to see how strong your contractions are, attempt to feel for fetal positioning, and ensure your IV is in good working order. And we help provide and titrate different medications, assist your provider with different procedures and interventions, and do cervical exams to see how dilated you are. Many times we will help you get into different positions. Sometimes we assist the anesthesiologist with epidural and spinal procedures. Of course, we help support you during the delivery and postpartum process. Likely, we will also assist if you require a cesarean birth. We’re literally with you every step of the way!
After delivery, we will help you out of bed to help you go to the bathroom, teach you about incision or perineal care, and help with breastfeeding and more. Some birth places are set up so you will see the same care providers throughout your stay. These nurses may even help you care for your infant and prepare for discharge. Other birth places will transfer you to a different unit where you will meet a handful of new nurses specializing specifically in postpartum nursing care.
Typically nurses are assigned one active labor patient and help that patient through recovery one on one. But on busy days, we may be watching more than one fetal heart rate “strip.” Often, we can see your fetal heart rate tracing at several workstations located throughout the birth place. So don’t worry when we’re not in your room. We’re likely out helping our coworkers, assisting with other patients, triaging other pregnant mamas, or acting as a team member on the floor. Always know that using your call bell to alert your nurse will ensure that she will come as quickly as possible.
Your labor and delivery nurses truly will look forward to getting to know you and your family. It is our privilege help to support you throughout your labor and birth process. While the process tends to be anxiety-provoking for many, know that your labor and delivery nurses will be there with you every single step of the way. They will provide you with education, support, and advice that may last with you for years to come! I have bonded with patients throughout the years and still keep in touch with them on their childrens’ birthdays. Welcoming your baby into the world is a wonderful time and being about to be a member of your support team is a privilege and an honor!