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What does a Prenatal Nurse do?

Autumn Rivers
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A prenatal nurse, also often called a midwife, is a nurse with a focus on care of pregnant women, during both the pregnancy and childbirth. This kind of medical professional may work in a hospital, a clinic, a private doctor's office, or her own practice. The most common duties include help with family planning, fetal monitoring during pregnancy, and care for the pregnant woman from conception until birth. In fact, many midwives also continue to see patients during the postpartum period in order to perform checkups and help with birth control options.

Many gynecological practices have prenatal nurses available, as they can help women who are interested in becoming pregnant. A prenatal nurse can offer testing to ensure that the woman is generally healthy and able to bear children, and may also dispense advice on how to time intercourse to result in conception. The typical prenatal nurse also provides Pap smears, breast exams, and pregnancy tests for women. While many gynecologists and even general practice doctors may be able to do the same, the advantage of using a prenatal nurse for these exams is that the same nurse can often be used throughout pregnancy, providing continuity of care.

Once a woman is pregnant, she is expected to visit a doctor or prenatal nurse at least once per month for the first two trimesters. During this time, the typical midwife can use a fetal Doppler to allow the woman to listen to her unborn baby's heartbeat, measure the growth of the uterus, and schedule ultrasounds with a radiologist. Some prenatal nurses can even perform ultrasounds on their own to ensure that the baby is growing properly. A prenatal nurse also usually offers screenings for genetic defects, performs urine tests to check for preeclampsia, and provides referrals to the laboratory for tests that screen for issues like gestational diabetes.

If any medical problems are detected, a midwife can usually treat it or refer the patient to anther specialist. For example, a midwife can advise a change in diet if gestational diabetes is diagnosed, as well as a referral to a nutritionist for help sticking to the new diet's guidelines. If certain medical issues are found that mark a high-risk pregnancy, a prenatal nurse can refer the woman to a high-risk practice. Of course, this type of nurse is typically involved in labor and delivery of the child, as well, either helping on the sidelines or actually delivering the baby. Once the child is born, the mother can usually return to the prenatal specialist for the postpartum appointment to ensure that she has healed properly, and also to obtain birth control if desired.

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Autumn Rivers
By Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for Practical Adult Insights, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.

Discussion Comments

By Rotergirl — On Nov 28, 2014

I had a prenatal nurse and it was great. I could call her anytime I had questions or concerns, which you can't always do with a doctor.

She was able to reassure an older, first-time mom with the jitters that I was going to be OK, that my baby was all right, and that everything was going just like it should. I was so grateful for her care and my daughter was born without complications and was absolutely perfect and healthy.

In my opinion, a pregnant woman needs someone she can call with concerns, outside of office hours. She will benefit and so will her baby.

By Pippinwhite — On Nov 27, 2014

I never heard a midwife referred to as a prenatal nurse. I always thought a prenatal nurse was a nurse who worked for an OB/GYN and helped expectant moms through the pregnancy process, but never that they would be the ones delivering a baby.

Obviously, I knew midwives were usually registered nurses, and often certified registered nurse practitioners, but never that they were also called prenatal nurses. I'd heard the term "doula" in reference to midwives, but not prenatal nurse. That's interesting. I think I'd always want the obstetrician on call, obviously, but as long as the delivery was routine, a prenatal nurse should be able to handle it. EMTs do it all the time.

Autumn Rivers

Autumn Rivers

Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for Practical Adult Insights, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
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