Abstract: It is estimated that up to 9 million women survive severe obstetric complications every year. In some poor countries, the reliance on out-of-pocket fees to pay for emergency care at a health facility means that such complications often pose an immediate financial burden on women and their households. In addition, there are long lasting effects on the survival rate of women and infants, women’s physical and mental health, and on their households’ economic and social well-being. This briefing paper describes the experiences of women who have suffered from severe obstetric complications in Burkina Faso and Benin. It is based on longitudinal research following women and their infants for one year after delivery and compares a range of health, economic, and social indicators with women who experienced uncomplicated births.