One of the major causes of maternal mortality is the distance and consequent delay in treatment of childbirth complications. Some developing countries are attempting to reduce delays in treatment by moving women at risk into maternity waiting homes (MWHs), located near a hospital, a few days prior to the date of confinement. This paper illustrates some typical examples of MWHs in different countries. The approach of MWHs is appropriate in some settings but it requires a high degree of coordination between peripheral prenatal care services and second and third level health care facilities. This study discusses some of the issues related to the successful functioning of MWHs, and provides an analytical framework for the planning, management and evaluation of these facilities.