Confidential enquiries into poor perinatal outcomes have identified deficiencies in team working as a common factor and have recommended team training in the management of obstetric emergencies. Isolated aviation-based team training programmes have not been associated with improved perinatal outcomes when applied to labour ward settings, whereas obstetric-specific training interventions with integrated teamwork have been associated with clinical improvements. This commentary reviews obstetric emergency training programmes from hospitals that have demonstrated improved outcomes to determine the active components of effective training. The common features identified were: institution-level incentives to train; multi-professional training of all staff in their units; teamwork training integrated with clinical teaching and use of high fidelity simulation models. Local training also appeared to facilitate self-directed infrastructural change.