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Purpose: Out-of-pocket expenses associated with facility-based delivery are a well-known barrier to health care access. However, there is extremely limited contemporary information on delivery-related household out-of-pocket expenditure in sub-Saharan Africa. We assess the financial burden of delivery for the most remote Zambian women and compare differences between delivery locations (primary health center, hospital, or home).

Methods: We conducted household surveys and in-depth interviews among randomly selected remote Zambian women who delivered a baby within the last 13 months. Women reported expenditures for their most-recent delivery for delivery supplies, transportation, and baby clothes, among others. Expenditures were converted to US dollars for analysis.

Results: Of 2280 women sampled, 2223 (97.5%) reported spending money on their delivery. Nearly all respondents in the sample (95.9%) spent money on baby clothes/blanket, while over 80% purchased delivery supplies such as disinfectant or cord clamps, and a third spent on transportation. Women reported spending a mean of USD28.76 on their delivery, with baby clothes/blanket (USD21.46) being the main expenditure and delivery supplies (USD3.81) making up much of the remainder. Compared to women who delivered at home, women who delivered at a primary health center spent nearly USD4 (p<0.001) more for their delivery, while women who delivered at a level 1 or level 2 hospital spent over USD7.50 (p<0.001) more for delivery.

Conclusion: These expenses account for approximately one third of the monthly household income of the poorest Zambian households. While the abolition of user fees has reduced the direct costs of delivering at a health facility for the poorest members of society, remote Zambian women still face high out-of-pocket expenses in the form of delivery supplies that facilities should provide as well as unofficial policies/norms requiring women to bring new baby clothes/blanket to a facility-based delivery. Future programs that target these expenses may increase access to facility-based delivery.