A maternity nurse, a specially trained health-care provider, works in the maternity ward of the hospital. Maternity nurses are registered nurses who have completed a four-year nursing degree program and taken a state board nursing exam. Nurses working in maternity wards perform some general duties that all nurses would perform, but other duties pertain specifically to caring for new mothers and babies before, during and after birth.
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General Medical Responsibilities
One of the first duties maternity nurses will perform involves checking in delivering mothers. The nurse also assists the mother-to-be in getting set up in the room for labour. Maternity nurses also take the first vital signs---including blood pressure and pulse---and provide general information on labour and delivery.
Responsibilities Related to Giving Birth
Before the delivery, the maternity nurse must determine whether the labour process has truly started for the mother. The nurse checks the mother for false labour---when the cervix has not really begun to contract and open up for the birth process. After confirming the labour status, the nurse checks the cervix to see how far it has dilated (opened up) for delivery. During the process of labour, the nurse must keep a close eye on the baby through fetal monitor or Doppler, checking heartbeat, position and oxygen levels.
If necessary, the maternity nurse administers induction medicine to the mother, aiding the birth process. The nurse may perform induction for a distressed baby, a mother in danger or an excessively slow labour process. Maternity nurses also give the mother pain medication during the duration of birth and help the doctor in such tasks as prepping for delivery, talking the mother through contractions, keeping the mother cool during the birthing process.
Responsibilities After Birth
After the delivery, the maternity nurse cleans and weighs the baby and performs a general check on its overall health. The nurse takes the baby's Apgar score---an assessment of the baby's physical health to determine whether the child will need extended medical or emergency care. The nurse also bathes the baby, helps the mother in the feeding process and preps newborns boys for circumcision. If the mother has experienced an especially difficult labour the maternity nurse, may relieve the mother of the baby to allow her to rest.
The maternity nurse also assesses the mother's condition after birth. She takes the mother's post-delivery vital signs, records the mother's fluid intake and output, and shows the new mother how to hold the baby and give general breastfeeding instructions. In many cases before mother and baby depart from the hospital, the nurse acts as the witness to signing of paternity papers and birth certificate.
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