“I have no choice”: Influences on Contraceptive Use and Abortion among Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Jennifer M. Swanson, Monique M. Hennink, Roger W. Rochat


In 2015, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) recorded an estimated maternal mortality ratio of 693/100,000 live births. Strict abortion laws, high fertility rates, low contraceptive prevalence, and lack of emergency obstetric care all contribute to the high maternal mortality ratio. This study explored influences on contraceptive use and abortion in the DRC. Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with 32 women and 10 healthcare providers in four provinces. Participants were recruited at health centers and households in the study communities. Thematic analysis was used and identified that Congolese women‘s contraceptive decision-making was shaped by a range of external influences rather than their own independent decisions. Non-autonomous decisions and strict abortion laws influenced the methods used to abort a pregnancy, exposing risks of infection, complication, and fatality. These findings highlight that Congolese women‘s decisions about their fertility and family planning are constrained by policy and socio-cultural influences. (Afr J Reprod Health 2019; 23[1]: 128-138).

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