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Essential obstetric care

Fact sheet N°245

Essential obstetric care is the term used to describe the elements of obstetric care needed for the management of normal and complicated pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period.

Essential Obstetric Care is defined for two different levels of the health care system:

Basic essential obstetric care services at the health centre level should include at least the following:

  • parenteral antibiotics
  • parenteral oxytocic drugs
  • parenteral sedatives for eclampsia
  • manual removal of placenta
  • manual removal of retained products

Comprehensive essential obstetric care services at the district hospital level (first referral level) should include all the above plus

  • surgery
  • anaesthesia, and
  • blood transfusion.

For the services at a facility to be considered functional, the elements of care must have been provided during the 6 months previous to data collection.

Further reading

  • World Health Organization. Essential elements of obstetric care at first referral level. Geneva, 1991.
  • World Health Organization. Care of the mother and baby at the health centre. Report of a Technical Working Group. Geneva, 1994.
  • World Health Organization. Mother-Baby Package: Implementing safe motherhood in countries. Geneva, 1994.
  • WHO/Unicef/UNFPA. Guidelines for monitoring the availability and use of obstetric services. New York, 1997.
  • World Health Organization. Catalogue of health indicators. Geneva, 1996.

For more information contact:

WHO Media centre
Telephone: +41 22 791 2222