This paper estimates the total cost to women and their families associated with a spontaneous vaginal delivery and five types of 'near-miss' obstetric complication in Benin and Ghana, and assesses affordability in relation to household cash expenditure. A retrospective evaluation of costs was carried out among 121 mothers in three hospitals in Ghana. A prospective evaluation of costs was undertaken among 420 pregnant women in two hospitals in Benin. Information was collected on the cost of travel to the facilities and of direct medical and non-medical costs incurred during their stay in hospital.
In Benin, costs ranged from an average of US$15 for a spontaneous delivery to US$256 for a near-miss complication caused by dystocia. In Ghana, average costs ranged from US$18 for a spontaneous vaginal delivery to US$115 for a near-miss complication caused by haemorrhage. Medical costs accounted for the largest share of total costs, mainly drugs and medical supplies in Ghana and costs of the delivery and any surgical intervention in Benin. Payments associated with a spontaneous vaginal delivery amounted to at least 2% of annual household cash expenditure in both countries. In the case of severe obstetric complications, costs incurred reached a high of 34% of annual household cash expenditure in Benin.
The economic burden of hospital-based delivery care in Ghana and Benin is likely to deter or delay women's use of health services. Should a woman develop severe obstetric complications while in labour, the relatively high costs of hospital care could have a potentially catastrophic impact on the household budget.
Health Policy and Planning (2003) 18 (4) 383-90 [doi:10.1093/heapol/czg046]