Certain socio-cultural factors support the concept of birth spacing in DRC, whereas others represent barriers to family planning. Many of these same factors exist in other francophone Sub-Saharan African countries.
Traditionally, the population has held the deep-seated belief that birth spacing is desirable, to ensure a healthy outcome for the baby.
High prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding through six months (lactational amenorrhea method, LAM) offers a natural source of protection.
The population, especially in the urban areas, increasingly realizes the value of education and would like to be able to send children of both sexes to school.
The pressure for young girls to marry is less intense in Kinshasa than in some other franchophone West African countries.
With urbanization, desired fertility declines; economic pressures come to bear much more than in rural society.
Religion per se is not a major barrier to contraceptive use in the DRC. Some Catholic-run health services turn a blind eye on the delivery of contraceptive methods, even if they don't openly publicize them. The major protestant groups - organized for decades under the umbrella of the Eglise du Christ au Zaire (ECZ) and later the Eglise du Christ au Congo (ECC) - were pioneers in the area of family planning in the DRC.
Polygamy - which causes the co-wives to compete with each other for number and sex of children - is not legal or widespread in the DRC.
Historically, DRC has been strongly pronatalist. Prior to independence in 1960, the Belgian Congo offered strong financial incentives for having a large family.
Traditionally, high fertility has been a source of social status for both women and men. Young people are not considered adults until they have had a child.
Pair of Phallic Female Fertility Figures
Carried to influence child birth.
When a couple marries, the groom's family pays a significant dowry to the bride's family. This dowry "buys" her commitment to produce children for him.
Once a woman marries, she legally loses her status as an autonomous adult and instead is subject to the mandates of her husband and his family. She no longer has an equal say in household matters, including the number of children to have.
Having a large number of children confers social status to both the mother and the father. Moreover, especially in rural areas, women have few alternative lifestyle choices.
Many couples would like to have at least one child of each sex. This desire often outweighs any inclination to stop at a certain number, especially if the couple does not yet have a son.
Fundamentalist Christian sects generally oppose the use of artificial contraception. As small fundamentalist churches spring up across the country, the anti-family planning sentiment becomes more evident.