How to Become a Postpartum Nurse

If you’re passionate about supporting women as they embark on their journey into motherhood, working as a postpartum nurse might be the perfect job for you. Here’s everything you need to know about postpartum nursing.

Postpartum Nurse Career Overview

The world of a new mom is full of diapers, bottles, sleepless nights, all with a good heaping of fear and concerns. Moms and babies are adjusting to this new life and are getting to know each other. They need all the support they can get from their families and healthcare professionals. That’s where postpartum nurses come in.

The postpartum period is a complex stage due to the many emotional and physical changes that new mothers experience during that transitional time. As you may already know, mothers are particularly vulnerable during this period. So there are many potential health risks to assess, document, and care for.

Postpartum Nursing is Critical to Mother-Baby Success

Many clinical guidelines say nurses are the best people to care for the mother and baby during this crucial time. Postpartum nurses play a pivotal role, not only in addressing the immediate needs of the mother, but also in fostering a strong and trusting bond with the mom to give her the encouragement and feedback she desperately needs during this vulnerable time.

What’s particularly noteworthy about this rewarding profession is its promising outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nursing field is projected to experience a 6% job market growth from 2022 to 2032. This means that nursing is set to remain a highly relevant and in-demand field in the years ahead, offering a secure and promising career path if you’re looking in this direction.

Key Responsibilities of Postpartum Nursing

Let’s get into some of the responsibilities you’d have as a postpartum nurse. Obviously, the primary tasks of this role involve caring for both the mother and her newborn immediately after birth, until they leave the hospital. Additionally, these nurses may be needed for in-home care, especially for moms in vulnerable or risky situations.

In more detail, their responsibilities include:

  • managing the physical and organic changes experienced by new moms
  • guiding and encouraging early breastfeeding
  • preventing incision infections
  • thromboembolic disease prophylaxis (specifically for the prevention of DVT)

Moreover, you’ll assist moms in the psychological changes and adaptations that are necessary to navigate as a new parent. You’ll help to create a solid mother-child bond, supporting their choices, and conducting patient education on self-care.

It may seem like postpartum care is all ‘skin-to-skin’, emotional support, and playing with newborn babies, but there’s much more to it. The time following a birth can be one of the most dangerous times in a woman’s life. There are increased risks of blood clots, pulmonary embolism, and cardiac arrest. You’ll also have to access surgical wounds, evaluate epidural sites, and ensure there are no lasting effects of anesthesia.

You’ll find that critical thinking is a vital component of this nursing specialty, and frankly, is a requirement for any successful nursing career. Contraception and family planning are also part of the education program provided to the parents along with ensuring appropriate vaccination of the newborn after birth.

Postpartum nursing plays a vital role in recognizing the symptoms of postpartum depression and providing relief to women who suffer from it. You will help preserve the care of the child and help the family divide different roles. The goal being to allow the mother to rest and receive medical care.

Furthermore, for first-time parents, postpartum nurses play an exceptionally important role. You’ll assist and educate them on a variety of newborn care basics like:

  • bathing
  • changing diapers
  • weighing the baby
  • dressing the baby
  • monitoring and explaining typical vital signs and signs of emergency

Teaching about proper infant sleep to cut the risk of sudden death syndrome, is also expected. Other smaller, but still vitally important tasks include explaining how to burp babies, and providing guidance on the baby’s feeding technique and feeding amounts. Also important is reviewing with mom and dad the hygiene guidelines for postpartum wounds and umbilical cord care.

Postpartum Nurse Salary

The average annual salary for a postpartum nurse is around $78,925. The pay range can span from $53,000 to $109,000, depending on the city and state you work in. Specialized postpartum nurses working in neonatal intensive care units may receive higher salaries due to their additional experience and training. Travel nurses specializing in postpartum or labor and delivery can earn some of the highest travel nurse salaries.

Technical Skills and Procedures on the Postpartum Floor

Postpartum nurses must have a wide range of technical skills and procedures to care for mothers and newborns. These include assessing vital signs such as:

  • temperature
  • heart rate
  • respiration
  • blood pressure.

And assessing baby’s:

  • weight
  • length
  • head circumference
  • and Apgar score

Common Conditions on the Maternity Unit

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a serious mental health disorder that affects approximately 10-15% of postpartum women. It is characterized by feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and fatigue, as well as thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Postpartum depression can have a significant impact on the mother as well as her family. Postpartum nurses are trained to recognize and manage the condition. They are also responsible for providing appropriate support and resources to help the mother cope with this condition.

If left untreated, postpartum depression can lead to postpartum psychosis which can have devastating and even deadly results.

It is critical that nursing students and registered nurses who are considering working in postpartum nursing become very familiar with the signs of postpartum depression.

Postpartum Hemorrhage

Postpartum hemorrhage is a common complication that can occur after childbirth. It occurs when a woman experiences heavy vaginal bleeding that does not stop and may require medical intervention. Postpartum nurses must have an understanding of the risk factors associated with postpartum hemorrhage and be able to recognize the signs and symptoms. They must also be able to provide appropriate treatment and support for women who experience this condition.

Latching Issues

Latching issues are extremely common among newborns and postpartum mothers. Latching is the act of a baby attaching to the mother’s breast in order to feed. A proper latch is essential for successful breastfeeding, as the baby must be able to obtain enough milk from their feeding sessions. Improper latching can lead to sore, cracked nipples for the mom, and in severe cases, malnutrition in the child. Postpartum nurses play a critical role in helping new mothers learn how to properly latch their babies and provide unwavering support to them in the process.

Career Outlook for Postpartum Nurses

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for postpartum nurses will grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2026. This growth is due in part to an increased demand for postpartum nurses as more women are choosing to give birth in hospitals and birthing centers, rather than at home. The increased number of births also contributes to this field’s growth. As more newborns require medical care and attention, the demand for postpartum nurses is also expected to increase.

How to Become a Postpartum Nurse

Step 1. Become a Nurse

To practice as a postpartum nurse, first, you need to become a Registered Nurse (RN). There are two paths to becoming a certified nurse:

  1. a shorter route for entry-level positions with basic knowledge so you can start working early
  2. and a more extensive path for managerial positions and a more comprehensive range of career opportunities in the healthcare job market

For the quicker route, you can enroll in a state-approved nursing program and pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing (AND). The duration can vary, with some programs taking as little as 20 months and others lasting 2 to 3 years, depending on your school’s curriculum and pace.

On the other hand, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program typically takes four years to complete. It delves deeper into the fundamentals of nursing and opens doors to a broader career path and more growth opportunities. You can also start with an Associate Degree and, while working, enroll in a 2-year program to earn your BSN.

After earning your AND or BSN degree, you must study to take the NCLEX-RN exam. This is a computerized licensure assessment provided by each state board of nursing. This evaluation can tell if you meet the minimum standards to practice safely and effectively as a nurse at an entry-level. It makes you eligible to get a nursing license, and once you pass the exam, you can start the registration process to become a registered nurse (RN).

Step 2: Get Experience in the Postpartum Unit

Once you gain experience as an entry-level nurse, you should seek opportunities to gain specialized training and work in the postpartum unit. There are numerous ways to do this, including attending seminars or workshops on postpartum nursing, taking online courses focusing on caring for postpartum mothers, joining a professional organization for postpartum nurses, and completing an internship in the postpartum unit.

Step 3: Obtain a Postpartum Nursing Position

After becoming an RN, you’ll start working. If you decide to specialize as a postpartum nurse, you’ll need to gain experience by working as an entry-level nurse. To match this up with your desired career path, you can do this in a maternity department or perinatal unit in hospitals, clinics, or in-home care facilities.

Step 4: Get Certified as a Postpartum Nurse

Once you have several years of experience working in the postpartum unit, you can pursue certification as a postpartum nurse. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers a certification exam for those interested.

The next step in becoming a postpartum nurse is obtaining NCC Certification in Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN®). This certification is available to registered nurses licensed in the United States and Canada. Having 2 years and 2000 hours of specialized experience in providing care to childbearing families is a requirement. This experience must be from birth to six weeks, either in a hospital or outpatient setting.

Advancing your Nursing Education

Some states may need RNs to complete continuing education programs (CE). This means earning credits in various areas to keep your nursing license current. There are many online accredited courses in this field that you can pursue.

Examples of CE topics include postpartum recovery, postpartum hemorrhage management, labor and delivery, and inpatient obstetric nursing. Also, there are courses related to postpartum blues, such as the peripartum mood disorders course.

Additionally, if you are passionate about breastfeeding, you can take courses and gain clinical experience to further your knowledge in this area. Becoming a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) can be an option. You can also take it to the next level as an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

Get Connected and Informed

You can stay updated by attending conferences, seminars, and other courses. You can also read authoritative materials such as nursing journals or scholarly articles. Don’t underestimate the power of social media. There are some fantastic nurse influencers who share great information, nursing tips and tricks, and current nursing best practices. Online nursing communities or forums are a great place to learn. Finally, you could write a book or scholarly article. You’d be surprised how much you will learn while researching on your journey to being published or peer-reviewed.

Finally, don’t hesitate to respectfully reach out to an outstanding postpartum nurse you admire on Linkedin. Follow their wisdom, share your feedback, and maybe make a friend!

Postpartum Nurses Are a Mom’s Best Friend

Postpartum nurses provide valuable care and support to mothers and families during this special time. As a postpartum nurse, you can make a difference in the lives of new families from prenatal care to postpartum care. Ask any new mom if she appreciated and valued the help and support she received from the nurses during her hospital stay, and most will give a heartfelt ‘absolutely’ in response. Becoming a certified postpartum nurse is an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment to quality patient care and increase job security. It also provides unique opportunities for career advancement in the nursing profession.


How do I become a postpartum nurse?

You’ll have to start out by becoming a Registered Nurse and sitting for the NCLEX exam to get your RN licensure. From there, pursue this specialization by getting your entry-level experience in a postpartum unit. Once you have several years of experience working in the postpartum unit, you can pursue certification as a postpartum nurse. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers a certification exam for those interested. You can also pursue obtaining the NCC Certification in Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN®).

What does a postpartum nurse do?

In addition to providing basic nursing care to the new mom and newborn, responsibilities include managing the physical and organic changes experienced by new moms, guiding and encouraging early breastfeeding, preventing incision infections, and engaging in thromboembolic disease prophylaxis (specifically for the prevention of DVT).

What’s the salary of a postpartum nurse?

The average annual salary for a postpartum nurse is around $78,925. The pay range can span from $53,000 to $109,000, depending on the city and state you work in. Specialized postpartum nurses working in neonatal intensive care units may receive higher salaries due to their additional experience and training. Travel nurses specializing in postpartum or labor and delivery can earn some of the highest travel nurse salaries.

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