How to Become a Perinatal Nurse Practitioner or Perinatal CNS

Learn about the many opportunities in perinatal nursing.

Perinatal nursing offers career paths for nurse practitioners (NPs) and perinatal clinical nurse specialists (CNSs). Both provide health care services to women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. Having a baby presents stress—good and bad. And perinatal nursing supports women and their families through this transition, addressing the physical and emotional issues that may arise before and after a child is born.

Perinatal CNSs and perinatal nurse practitioners may practice independently, or work for a health care facility. In general, the difference between the two paths is that NPs function mainly as clinicians, whereas CNSs may function as administrators, researchers, educators or consultants.

Career Overview

Beginning with pregnancy, perinatal nurses perform the following tasks:

  • Educate women about childbirth techniques and prenatal health
  • Treat women for high-risk pregnancy conditions
  • In the delivery room, they support women through the course of labor and childbirth
  • After the baby is born, they teach mothers about feeding, mother-child bonding and general infant care.

Perinatal CNSs and perinatal nurse practitioners can find career opportunities in these types of inpatient and outpatient settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Birth centers
  • Community health centers
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Adult education centers
  • Private practice.

Perinatal Nursing Education

As advanced practice nurses, perinatal nurse practitioners and CNSs must hold a Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN) and a post-master’s certificate in their specialty. Two-year master’s degree programs build on your undergraduate nursing study and typically require that you have already earned your registered nursing (RN) license. In general, MSN programs involve classroom work and a significant number of hours of practical experience, which may include clinical, teaching and research time.

After you complete your program, becoming a certified nurse practitioner (NP) or clinical nurse specialist (CNS) can offer you distinct career advantages. Certification demonstrates to employers that you meet the highest level of standards of practice. In turn, passing that certification exam can translate into greater career opportunities and increased salary potential. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers certification for NPs and CNSs who meet specific eligibility requirements.

Career Outlook

Registered nurses can anticipate a 12% job growth rate through 2028, which is much faster than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ current Occupational Outlook Handbook. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. And nursing schools now offer a number of programs, such as online, direct-entry MSN and accelerated nursing degrees, to attract more nursing students and meet the growing demand for flexible education options.

Perinatal nurses offer women and families vital care and service in the midst of what could become a highly stressful, confusing time in their lives. Perinatal nursing delivers extraordinary personal rewards—and you could not ask for a better nursing career outlook.