BACKGROUND: Women want greater choice of place of birth in New South Wales, Australia. It is perceived to be more costly to health services for women with a healthy pregnancy to give birth at home or in a birth centre. It is not known how much it costs the health service to provide care for women planning to give birth in these settings. AIM: The aim of this study was to determine the direct cost of giving birth vaginally at home, in a birth centre or in a hospital for women at low risk of complications, in New South Wales. METHODS: A micro-costing design was used. Observational (time and motion) and resource use data collection was undertaken to identify the staff time and resources required to provide care in a public hospital, birth centre or at home for women with a healthy pregnancy. FINDINGS: The median cost of providing care for women who plan to give birth at home, in a birth centre and in a hospital were similar (AUD $2150.07, $2100.59 and $2097.30 respectively). Midwifery time was the largest contributor to the cost of birth at home, and overhead costs accounted for over half of the total cost of BC and hospital birth. The cost of consumables was low in all three settings. CONCLUSION: In this study, we have found there is little difference in the cost to the health service when a woman has an uncomplicated vaginal birth at home, in a birth centre or in a hospital setting.
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