Acute postpartum hemorrhage is the leading worldwide cause of maternal mortality, such deaths being usually related to the development of hemorrhagic shock and its consequences, especially the multiple organ dysfunction syndrome. Obstetricians should be aware of the clinical manifestations and principles of management of hemorrhagic shock. Initial assessment of the bleeding patient requires monitoring blood pressure, pulse, capillary refill, mental status and urinary output. This allows estimation of the amount and the rate of blood loss and helps direct treatment. Hemorrhagic shock is a condition in which inadequate perfusion of organs results in insufficient availability of oxygen to satisfy the metabolic needs of the tissues. A catabolic state develops. The consequences of these changes are inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and disruption of normal metabolic processes in vital organs. Once these events become established, the process of shock is often irreversible, even if volume and red cell deficits are corrected. The principal goals of management are controlling the source of the blood loss; restoring adequate oxygen carrying capacity; and maintaining adequate tissue perfusion. Patients with severe postpartum hemorrhage are at risk of developing hypothermia, an insidious complication that contributes substantially to morbidity and mortality. It must be prevented or treated promptly. Successful treatment of exsanguinating postpartum hemorrhage depends on efficient collaboration among all members of the patient care team, and a management plan based on an understanding of the pathophysiology of shock and tailored to the individual patient's situation.