Nicole S. Carlson, PhD, CNM, FACNM, FAAN is an Associate Professor, Tenured, at Emory University’s School of Nursing.  At Emory, Dr. Carlson conducts research on the biologic mechanisms of labor and strategies for achieving optimal perinatal outcomes and decreasing racial disparities in women with different levels of obesity. She has received support for her research from the National Institutes of Health, the March of Dimes, and The American College of Nurse-Midwives. She is currently PI of an R01 investigation, “The Weight of It All: Balancing the Scales for Pregnancy & Birth in Black Women” (WOIA), a 5-year prospective observational study to better understand how the social determinants of health, structural racism, the midwifery model of care, and pregnancy lifestyle affect prenatal metabolic health and labor/birth outcomes. This work is made possible by the amazing group of community members, students, midwives, nurses, faculty, and staff who are the WOIA team.

Areas of Expertise

Biological Behavioral Omics
Data Science
Maternal And Infant Health Midwifery


Carlson N., Frediani, J., Corwin, E., Dunlop, A & Jones, K. (2020). Metabolic Pathways Associated with Term Labor Induction Course in African-American Women. Biological Research For Nursing. (online ahead of print). //doi.org/10.1177/1099800419899730.

Carlson, N., Breman, R., Neal, J. & Phillippi, J. (2019). Preventing cesarean birth in women with obesity: Influence of midwifery presence on use of cesarean among women in the Consortium on Safe Labor Dataset. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health (online ahead of print) //doi.org/10.1111/jmwh.13022. NIHMSID 1039252.

Carlson, N., Corwin, E. & Lowe, N. (2017). Labor intervention and outcomes in women who are nulliparous and obese: Comparison of Nurse-Midwife to Obstetrician intrapartum care. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, 62(1): 29-39. //doi.org/10.111/jmwh.12579. PMCID PMC5726520

Carlson, N., Hernandez, T. & Hurt, K. (2015). Parturition dysfunction in obesity: Time to target the pathobiology. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 13:135. //doi.org/10.1186/s12958-015-0129-6. PMCID PMC4683915



I am an academic nurse scientist pursuing research at the intersection of physiology and management of labor in women with obesity, a group with the highest cesarean and labor dysfunction rates. My dissertation research at the University of Colorado examined biobehavioral phenomena involved in unplanned cesarean delivery, including higher synthetic oxytocin requirements among otherwise low-risk, obese women in labor (NINR F31 NR014061). I built upon this single-site investigation in my subsequent analysis using the large NICHD Consortium on Safe Labor dataset to demonstrate there was an independent and dose-response relationship between increasing maternal BMI and both unplanned cesarean birth and longer labor duration, regardless of the hospital’s inclusion of nurse-midwifery providers. I work with a multidisciplinary group of scientists who are investigating the biobehavioral mechanisms, including metabolomics variations, of poor delivery outcomes among African-American women. I was awarded a career development award through NIH NINR (K01 NR016984) in 2017 to expand my training by incorporating high-resolution metabolomics methodologies to better understand alterations underlying obesity-associated pregnancy dysfunction. Utilizing a conceptual model of impaired labor endurance in the obese woman, I completed intensive 3-year training in metabolomic/lipidomics techniques and prospective pregnancy cohort recruitment/retention. I recently completed a series of analyses to search for associations in metabolites present in serum from late-pregnancy with labor dysfunction in an African-American cohort. I discovered that metabolomic pathways consistent with lipotoxicity predicted labor dysfunction—even in non-obese women, and changes in the linoleate pathway predicted difficult labor induction. Merging my rich, 12-year clinical experience as a midwife with a systems biology approach, my research is uniquely focused on biopsychosocial mechanisms underpinning poor labor outcomes.