Basic Life Support in Obstetrics Course Teaches First-Responders Critical Delivery Skills

EMTs assist with more home births than certified nurse midwives — should be trained accordingly

Friday, March 01, 2013

Janelle Davis
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 5222

LEAWOOD, Kan. — Home births are on the rise despite higher neonatal mortality rates, making it more important than ever to prepare first responders to manage both normal labor and obstetrical emergencies.

The American Academy of Family Physicians has developed the “Basic Life Support in Obstetrics” program to help save the lives of women and their babies during labor and delivery. The BLSO program was designed for pre-hospital care providers, other first responders, emergency department personnel, as well as medical, nursing and physician assistant students.

There was a 29 percent increase in home births from 2004 to 2009. Ten percent of home births are unplanned, emergency deliveries. In 2009, 33 percent of home births were assisted by EMTs or others — a greater percentage than those assisted by certified nurse midwives.

“To respond to the growing prevalence of, and the risks associated with delivery outside a hospital setting and without physician care, the AAFP designed a course for emergency responders and students based upon a proven, evidence-based curriculum that imparts the knowledge and skills to effectively manage potential emergencies during the perinatal period,” said Carl Olden MD, physician liaison to the AAFP’s Maternity Care and Patient Safety Advisory Board.

BLSO is a one-day course adapted from the “Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics” program, a multidisciplinary, hands-on program in which more than 150,000 clinicians have been trained worldwide. Like ALSO, BLSO is an evidence-based program led by experienced maternity care providers who teach eight basic obstetric competencies as well as normal delivery.

The curriculum incorporates hands-on workshops, videos, mannequins, mnemonics, small group interaction and case-based discussions in order to drive higher comprehension levels and greater behavioral change through visual and kinesthetic teaching techniques.

BLSO promotes teamwork because effective communication reduces the potential for adverse events when obstetric emergencies occur at home, en route to a hospital/birthing center and in the emergency department. Pre-hospital resuscitation, communication in transit and transition to hospital care can be improved when pre-hospital and hospital providers share a conceptual framework.

“Students who complete the course are more confident and comfortable with obstetrical emergencies, which will save the lives of women and their babies when labor and delivery don’t go as planned,” said David Gregory MD, current chair of the AAFP’s Maternity Care and Patient Safety Advisory Board.

Information on upcoming courses can be found here.

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 136,700 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the largest medical society devoted solely to primary care. Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.  To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website,