BACKGROUND: Evidence based practice has been associated with better quality of care in many situations, but it has not been able to address increasing need and demand in healthcare globally and stagnant or decreasing healthcare resources. Implementation of value-based healthcare could address many important challenges in health care systems worldwide. Scaling up exemplary high value care practices offers the potential to ensure values-driven maternal and newborn care for all women and babies. DISCUSSION: Increased use of healthcare interventions over the last century have been associated with reductions in maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity. However, over an optimum threshold, these are associated with increases in adverse effects and inappropriate use of scarce resources. The Quality Maternal and Newborn Care framework provides an example of what value based maternity care might look like. To deliver value based maternal and newborn care, a system-level shift is needed, 'from fragmented care focused on identification and treatment of pathology for the minority to skilled care for all'. Ideally, resources would be allocated at population and individual level to ensure care is woman-centred instead of institution/ profession centred but oftentimes, the drivers for spending resources are 'the demands and beliefs of the acute sector'. We argue that decisions to allocate resources to high value activities, such as continuity of carer, need to be made at the macro level in the knowledge that these investments will relieve pressure on acute services while also ensuring the delivery of appropriate and high value care in the long run. To ensure that high value preventive and supportive care can be delivered, it is important that separate staff and money are allocated to, for example, models of continuity of carer to prevent shortages of resources due to rising demands of the acute services. To achieve value based maternal and newborn care, mechanisms are needed to ensure adequate resource allocation to high value maternity care activities that should be separate from the resource demands of acute maternity services. Funding arrangements should support, where wanted and needed, seamless movement of women and neonates between systems of care.