The Role Postpartum Nurses Play in Educating New Moms
By Katelynne Shepard, contributor
Giving birth is a life-changing time in a woman’s life and postpartum nurses are an integral part of her experience. Whether you’ve been working in labor and delivery your entire career or are looking to make a change, it’s important to understand what postpartum nurses do and what role they play in educating new moms.
What Do Postpartum Nurses Do?
Postpartum nurses specialize in caring for patients after the birth has taken place. They’re responsible for both the mother and the baby in their care and must make sure that they’re well taken care of until discharge, which may take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
Some common job duties for postpartum nurses include:
- Monitoring the vital signs of both mother and baby to make sure that the infant is thriving and the mother is recovering
- Being alert to any signs or symptoms that could point to complications of childbirth, such as failure to thrive, postpartum hemorrhage and postpartum depression
- Instructing new mothers on how to care for their babies, including how to bathe, change and feed them and care for the umbilical cord
- Helping the mother establish a breastfeeding relationship if she wishes
- Supporting the mother in her choices and reinforcing her ability and aptitude in caring for her child
- Working with other nurses and the attending physicians to ensure that the plan of care is appropriate to the patients and being followed correctly
- Referring the mother to additional resources such as breastfeeding support groups
All postpartum nurses must be RNs, but some may have BSN degrees or hold additional certifications, such as the Maternal Newborn Nursing certification. Some may also be International Board Certified Lactation Consultants.
Postpartum nurses must be able to remain calm under difficult and quickly changing circumstances, as emergencies can happen quickly for both the mother and the baby after the birth. Postpartum nurses must also be compassionate and empathize with the mother who may be experiencing feelings of anxiety or inadequacy.
How well-informed are most postpartum nurses?
Postpartum nurses are certainly well educated and well trained, but how well does this translate into actual patient-care practices?
According to a 2017 study published in MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, not so well. This study found that postpartum nurses just aren’t as well-informed on the complications and dangers that may face mothers and their babies after delivery.
Knowledge is power, and first-time mothers in particular can be more likely to brush off potential complications such as heavy bleeding or intense pain as a “normal” part of the postpartum process because they don’t have any context of what’s expected and what’s not.
What can you do to bridge the gap?
Well-informed nurses are better nurses, so one of the best ways to make sure you’re not one of the postpartum nurses caught unaware by maternal mortality statistics or other postpartum trends is to keep up with professional development.
Whether it’s taking continuing education courses, attending lectures or events hosted by a nursing association, or subscribing to a few labor and delivery journals — such as American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine — taking the initiative to stay abreast of current issues makes you a better nurse.