Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Latent versus Active Labor Hospital Admission for Medically Low-Risk, Term Women

Birth. 2015 Sep;42(3):219-26. doi: 10.1111/birt.12179. Epub 2015 Jun 22.


Objective: To assess the outcomes and costs of hospital admission during the latent versus active phase of labor. Latent labor hospital admission has been consistently associated with elevated maternal risk for increased interventions, including epidural anesthesia and cesarean delivery, longer hospital stay, and higher utilization of hospital resources.

Methods: A cost-effectiveness model was built to simulate a theoretic cohort of 3.2 million term, medically low-risk women either being admitted in latent labor (< 4 cm dilation) or delaying admission until active labor (≥ 4 cm dilation). Outcomes included epidural use, mode of delivery, stillbirth, maternal death, and costs of care. All probability, cost, and utility estimates were derived from the literature, and total quality-adjusted life years were calculated. Sensitivity analyses and a Monte Carlo simulation were used to investigate the robustness of model assumptions.

Results: Delaying admission until active labor would result in 672,000 fewer epidurals, 67,232 fewer cesarean deliveries, and 9.6 fewer maternal deaths in our theoretic cohort as compared to admission during latent labor. Additionally, delaying admission results in a cost savings of $694 million annually in the United States. Sensitivity analyses indicated the model was robust within a wide range of probabilities and costs. Monte Carlo simulation found that delayed admission was the optimal strategy in 76.79 percent of trials.

Conclusion: Delaying admission until active labor is a dominant strategy, resulting in both better outcomes and lower costs. Issues related to clinical translation of these findings are explored.

Keywords: cesarean delivery; latent labor; low-risk labor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Epidural / economics*
  • Cesarean Section / economics*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / economics*
  • Humans
  • Labor Onset
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Models, Economic
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Term Birth*
  • Trial of Labor
  • United States