Labor and delivery nurses are there for expectant parents during one of the most intense and emotional experiences of their lives. If you’re pursuing this career, you’re going to need to bring your A-game every day—for new mothers, fathers, and their little ones.

Jobs in labor and delivery play a critical part in our society, and the perks aren’t just about the paycheck and job prospects. Sure, those are great, but you’re also gonna be part of tackling a much bigger issue. And that’s ensuring fairness in labor and delivery for patients of all backgrounds.

While it’s true that women of color have historically faced disparities in childbirth outcomes, this issue extends beyond any single group. Every community needs compassionate, skilled labor and delivery nurses to ensure the best possible care for all mothers. Choosing a career as a labor and delivery nurse allows you to make a profound difference during this critical time.

A labor and delivery nurse or L&D nurse, plays a key role in the entire labor and delivery process, providing care and support to expectant mothers from the start of labor, through delivery, and into the immediate postpartum period (that’s after the baby is born).

Their duties include monitoring the mother’s vital signs, checking the progress of labor, giving medications, assisting with maternal pain, and providing emotional support and guidance to the mother and her family. 

After the baby is born, labor and delivery nurses continue to provide care, helping the new mom with the initial stages of breastfeeding and teaching the family about newborn care. They work closely with doctors, midwives, and other healthcare professionals to ensure the best possible outcome for both the mother and the baby. 

From a career perspective, a labor and delivery nurse is essentially a registered nurse (RN) with relevant certifications and work experience in obstetrics and related fields, details of which you’ll find in the upcoming section.

Obstetrics is a medical specialty that focuses on the care of women during pregnancy, the delivery of babies, and the health of the mother following childbirth.

For your information, some other nurses who work in labor and delivery are:

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) administers anesthesia
  • Perinatal Nurse cares for pregnant women and newborns.
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurse cares for newborn infants.
  • Certified Nurse Midwife assists expectant mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum.
  • Women’s Health Nurse provides comprehensive healthcare services to women.

Related: Here’s more on nurse anesthetists and how it’s a great nursing career to consider.

Since there aren’t any specific diploma, associate, or bachelor’s degree programs for labor and delivery nursing, you’ve got three broad paths to start your career in this field—through associate/diploma and/or bachelor’s degree programs in nursing, followed by obtaining the necessary licenses, certifications, and gaining relevant work experience. Here’s how you go about it:


Make sure your degree or diploma program that you choose to pursue is accredited by either CCNE or ACNE regulatory bodies, as approved by the U.S. Department of Education. All affiliated programs must include supervised clinical experience.

The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Path:

You can begin your career in nursing by getting a two to three-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a one to three-year Practical Nursing Diploma. The length of the program depends on your nursing school

Some accelerated ADN degree programs can be completed in as little as 18 months. Also, many colleges offer online programs for students working full time.

Once you complete your ADN degree or diploma, you’re qualified to take the NCLEX-RN licensing exam.

Related: Degree vs. Diploma: What Should You Choose?

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Path:

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a four-year comprehensive degree program for those passionate people aspiring to have a well-paid nursing career. According to the National Nursing Workforce Survey, over 70% of nurses had a BSN or higher degree in 2022. 

If you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree already and want to get into the nursing field, you can enroll in an accelerated BSN degree program and finish it in about 24 months or less. 

Beyond completing your required core courses for your BSN degree, you can consider taking electives related to the labor and delivery speciality. These can include women’s health, midwifery and birth culture in America, care and consideration of children with special needs, breastfeeding and human lactation, and others.

Similarly to an ADN/diploma program, once you complete your BSN program, you can attempt to take the NCLEX-RN licensing examination.

Related: Navigating Nursing BSN Degree Pathways


Just a heads up, you might need to get an additional nursing license from the state where you plan to work and practice, and that’s on top of passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Each state has its own set of requirements and only after you’ve ticked off every single one from the list, can you officially call yourself an RN in your state.

But here’s a good deal—you can go for the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) which lets you practice in 39 states and U.S. territories without the hassle of getting additional licenses for each state.

After Getting Your Degree & RN-Status:

No matter if you started off with an ADN or BSN, once you get your RN license, the road to becoming a labor and delivery nurse is the same for everyone. The upside of having a BSN is that hospital employers tend to favor candidates with a bachelor’s degree over those with an associate’s.

Fortunately for those with an ADN or nursing diploma—there are bridge programs, like RN-to-BSN degree programs, that let you go back and get a bachelor’s degree after getting your RN license in around 24 months or less. Many of these programs come with an online curriculum too, so you don’t need to leave your job to pursue higher education.

Let’s look at life after you get your nursing degree in hand, along with an RN license.

As labor and delivery nurse is a specialized role, you might have to spend up to two years (or a minimum of 2,000 hours) in rotation as an RN in hospitals, birthing centers, or various obstetrics departments. That’s where you’ll receive your hands-on training. 

Here are some perinatal (a term referring to the period spanning one year prior to and up to two years following childbirth) departments that you might love spending time in and learning the ropes along the way:

  • Triage Services
  • Medical-Surgical
  • Labor and Delivery
  • Neonatal Nursery
  • Postpartum
  • Operating Room (OR)

Once you’ve racked up enough work experience beyond the basic requirements, you’re all set to take the RNC-OB exam and begin your search for better paying labor and delivery nurse jobs. Just a heads up, for RNC-OB, your employment history shouldn’t be more than 24 months old.

Labor and Delivery Nurse Certifications:

Certifications help you get better at your job by adding new skills to your arsenal. You can keep stacking up certifications over time, because let’s face it, in nursing or any healthcare job, learning never stops. But hey, it’s always good to start with the basics.

As an RN, you might want to get these certifications to add to  your resume:

For labor and delivery specific speciality, you might want to target these certifications:


Keep updating your resume as you keep adding new certifications.

Labor and Delivery Nurse Communities:

Your involvement in the nursing community helps you invest in your career and network with others who share your passion for nursing. It increases your awareness of resources and aids in your professional development. Here are some professional organizations worthy of your time:

  • Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses
  • American Nurses Association
  • American College of Nurse-Midwives 
  • National Association of Neonatal Nurses
  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
  • American Journal of Critical Care
  • Critical Care Nurse
  • Advanced Critical Care
  • Intensive and Critical Care Nursing

Labor and Delivery Nurse Career Outlook & Alternatives:

So what’s next in the path of becoming a labor and delivery nurse—more opportunities at your job or higher education? Guess what, you can explore both! Beyond direct patient care, you can look out for managerial and administrative roles such as nurse manager, charge nurse, and similarly others. 

Or you can choose to pursue a two-year Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) for more career options and then a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) for research and education purposes. There’s ton of possibilities with a graduate degree in nursing. You can target roles with more autonomy and higher pay range, such as:

  • A nurse practitioner (NP), 
  • A clinical nurse specialist (CNS), or
  • A certified nurse-midwife (CNM)

You can club these roles with a specialization in obstetrics and gynecology to handle high-risk patients and/or if any complications.


A nurse practitioner is one of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S., followed by data scientist and statistician.

Okay, now, let’s explore a different career category. If you’re interested in working with expectant mothers, newborns, and families in general, but not as a labor and delivery nurse, here are some options for you:

  • Some hospitals conduct childbirth education classes right before delivery and you can teach them with a Childbirth Educator certification. That’s a rewarding career option for you if you love spending time with families and communities.
  • Moreover, working as a birth doula is another great career choice if you’re someone eager to help expectant parents prepare for childbirth mentally and physically. The Birth Doula certification can help you become one.

Related: How to Choose a Nursing Specialty

RNs earn around $81,220 per year and more specialized roles earn more. L&D nurses earn around $125,336 per year.

Labor and delivery nurses, along with other OB-GYN nurses, oversee a woman’s reproductive health, with a key emphasis on the birthing process. They work in a variety of environments, from busy city hospitals to smaller country ones, each with its own rhythm and resources. 

Some L&D nurses might opt to work in independent birthing centers that emphasize a holistic approach to childbirth, while others with a MSN or DNP might be involved in academia or public health, offering educational support. 

But here’s the deal—balancing work and life isn’t always a walk in the park for nurses, especially when you’re working a 12-hour shift. There are ways to keep things balanced. Hit the gym to blow off some steam and clear your head. Hanging out with your family, and playing with a pet can also help you unwind.

Here are some of the day-to-day responsibilities of an L&D nurse:

  • Go through the patient’s past medical records related to pregnancy
  • Examine patients for signs of early labor, active labor, membrane rupture, complications during pregnancy, or other health issues
  • Keep track of the patient’s vital signs, the baby’s heartbeat, and contractions during labor
  • Give medications, and if needed, place catheters and IV lines
  • Work together with other healthcare professionals like anesthesiologists, doctors, midwives, lactation nurses, and head nurses
  • Help patients during labor, including early labor, assisting with induction, managing epidurals, and supporting during delivery
  • Spot any complications during labor and immediately inform the doctor.
  • Give emotional support to parents during labor
  • Provide care and conduct assessments for the newborn baby
  • Help with breastfeeding and provide support after childbirth


Most of the labor and delivery nurse positions available are titled as “Registered Nurse—Labor and Delivery,” since every L&D nurse is an RN initially. If you decide to pursue further education and licensure, you could become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) but still be working in labor and delivery in a different role with wider responsibilities and excellent pay.

Now that’s a job that’s truly something special for you. Not many roles out there give you the chance to help bring a new life into the world. As a labor and delivery nurse, you’re not just a healthcare provider—you’re a memorable part of a family’s story. 

Can LPNs work in labor and delivery?

Licensed Practical Nurses, or LPNs, are indeed allowed to work in labor and delivery settings. Their role typically involves providing basic medical care, which they do under the guidance of an RN or a doctor.

What degree is best for labor and delivery nurse?

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is best suited to pursue a career as a labor and delivery nurse. The reason being that most states are emphasizing the importance of a four-year degree for practicing nurses to be able to provide the best care for the people.