Emergency Obstetric Care

Emergency Obstetric Care (EmOC) has been identified as the core service to be provided by a “skilled attendant” to handle obstetric complications and prevent maternal fatalities.

Six signal functions of basic EmOC addressing the most important obstetric complications have been proposed by the United Nations:

Parenteral antibiotics
(sepsis, septic abortion)

Parenteral anticonvulsants

Parenteral oxytocics

Removal of retained placenta
(PPH, sepsis)

Removal of retained products
(PPH, sepsis, post abortion care)

Assisted vaginal delivery
(prolonged labour)


Comprehensive EmOC include two additional signal functions:

Caesarean section
(obstructed labour labor)

Blood transfusion
(post partum hemorrhage)


Delays in receiving EmOC can be divided into three categories:

First delays are the delays at home for women and their families to recognize a complication and decide to seek professional help.

Second delays are delays in transport getting to a health facility that provides EmOC.
Third delays are delays within the health facilities to provide EmOC.

When prioritizing what delay to address first, the third delay is the most important; there is no point in convincing the pregnant women to go to health facilities to give birth or spend resources on transport getting them there, if the health facilities do not provide quality and timely EmOC. It has bee demonstrated on many occasions that the third delay in EmOC is a significant contributor to maternal deaths in developing countries.


 By Bjarke Lund Sørensen


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