Globally, the number of maternal deaths have decreased by nearly one-half over the past two decades. However, there are still adverse consequences for women experiencing near-fatal complications during pregnancy or childbirth. For many women, emergency obstetric care is a catastrophic expenditure that may potentially contribute to a cycle of poverty and poor health. This brief summarizes findings from one study that qualitatively examines how some women in Burkina Faso fared after such “near miss” life-threatening experiences.
To reduce the financial barriers to maternal health care services, Burkina Faso adopted a policy to subsidize deliveries and emergency obstetric care. The subsidy is 80 percent of the total cost of treatment but does not cover nonmedical expenses such as transportation. Additionally, the policy fully exempts the poorest women from paying for obstetric care. The uncovered costs represent a substantial proportion of some women’s income—as much as seven days of income earned, and health care workers are often unsure which women are fully exempt. For these reasons, many poor women do not benefit from the subsidies as they should. The policy was adopted in 2006 and will be in effect through 2015.