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Objective In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, insufficient state financing of the health system produced weak progress toward targets of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. In Lubumbashi, almost all women pay out-of-pocket for obstetric and neonatal care. As no standard pricing system has been implemented, there is great variation in payments related to childbirth between health facilities and even within the same facility. This work investigates the determinants of this variation. Methods We conducted a cross-sectional study including women from admission through discharge at 92 maternity wards in Lubumbashi in March 2014. The women's payments were collected and validated by triangulating interviews of new mothers and nurses with document review. We studied payments related to delivery from the perspective of women delivering. The total was the sum of the payments linked to seeking and accessing care and transport of the woman and companion. The determinants were assessed by multilevel regression. Results Median payments for delivery varied by type: for an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, US$45 (range, US$17-260); for a complicated vaginal delivery US$60 (US$16-304); and for a Cesarean section, US$338 (US$163-782). Vaginal delivery was more expensive at health centers than in general referral hospitals or polyclinics. Cesarean sections done in corporate polyclinics and hospitals were more expensive than those done in the general referral hospitals. Referral of delivering women, use of more highly trained personnel, and a longer stay in the maternity unit contributed to higher expenses. A vaginal delivery in the private sector was more cost-effective than in the public sector. Conclusion To guarantee universal coverage of high-quality care, we suggest that the government and funders in DRC support health insurance and risk pool initiatives, and introduce and institutionalize free mother and infant care. This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

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open access

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