Cost of Utilising Maternal Health Services in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review

Document Type : Review Article


1 Department of Health Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK

2 Centre for Global Child Health, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Toronto, ON, Canada

3 Health Education West Midlands, Birmingham, UK

4 Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada

5 Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK


Cost is a major barrier to maternal health service utilisation for many women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). However, comparable evidence of the available cost data in these countries is limited. We conducted a systematic review and comparative analysis of costs of utilising maternal health services in these settings.
We searched peer-reviewed and grey literature databases for articles reporting cost of utilising maternal health services in LMICs published post-2000. All retrieved records were screened and articles meeting the inclusion criteria selected. Quality assessment was performed using the relevant cost-specific criteria of the Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards (CHEERS) checklist. To guarantee comparability, disaggregated costs data were inflated to 2019 US dollar equivalents. Total adjusted costs and cost drivers associated with utilising each service were systematically compared. Where heterogeneity in methods or non-disaggregated costs was observed, narrative synthesis was used to summarise findings.
Thirty-six studies met our inclusion criteria. Many of the studies costed multiple services. However, the most frequently costed services were utilisation of normal vaginal delivery (22 studies), caesarean delivery (13), and antenatal care (ANC) (10). The least costed services were post-natal care (PNC) and post-abortion care (PAC) (5 each). Studies used varied methods for data collection and analysis and their quality ranged from low to high with most assessed as average or high. Generally, across all included studies, cost of utilisation progressively increased from ANC and PNC to delivery and PAC, and from public to private providers. Medicines and diagnostics were main cost drivers for ANC and PNC while cost drivers were variable for delivery. Women experienced financial burden of utilising maternal health services and also had to pay some unofficial costs to access care, even where formal exemptions existed.
Consensus regarding approach for costing maternal health services will help to improve their relevance for supporting policy-making towards achieving universal health coverage. If indeed the post-2015 mission of the global community is to “leave no one behind,” then we need to ensure that women and their families are not facing unnecessary and unaffordable costs that could potentially tip them into poverty.
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Volume 10, Issue 9
September 2021
Pages 564-577
  • Receive Date: 30 October 2019
  • Revise Date: 01 May 2020
  • Accept Date: 14 June 2020
  • First Publish Date: 01 September 2021