Improving access to supervised birth reduces mortality in developing countries. In the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea, many women do not deliver at local health centres (HCs) because they feel ‘shy’ at presenting in an impoverished state and not having baby’s clothes, and the state of facilities associated with HCs was poor. To overcome this, women were offered ‘mother and baby gifts’ (MBGs) at the time of delivery. We found subsequent increases in the rate of supervised birth in all HCs surveyed.