The importance of healthcare workers guidance in comprehensive sexuality education and family planning

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Mariam Mohamed is a first-year medical student at the University of Montreal. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Family planning is considered one of the fundamental human rights. It is perceived as the freedom to make an informed life decision(1). It is defined as the decision that couples make regarding when and if they would like to have children(2). Unintended pregnancy can have detrimental effects on the physical health of the children and their parents’ mental health. According to the World Health Organization(WHO), closer gaps between siblings is associated with higher mortality rates, where the mortality rate is 60% higher when siblings are a year apart compared to 4 years apart(1). When it comes to the mental health of the mother, there are 20% to 22% higher chances of depression with a mistimed pregnancy compared to a planned one(3).

Furthermore, unplanned pregnancies can have financial impacts, not only on the family, but also on the economy at large. In the U.S., the government pays $12 billion to fund mistimed pregnancies and provide care for complications infants face (4). From a micro-perspective, unplanned pregnancies increase family financial stress, which affects the parents’ productivity, and their overall wellbeing(5). Healthcare workers play an effective role in helping families live more comfortably based on their own decisions and timelines. 

Family planning can take on different facets. Healthcare workers provide families with different contraceptive options to choose what they can afford and feel comfortable with. Contraception may take the form of condoms, vaginal rings, male and female sterilization, intrauterine devices, and many others(1,6). Additionally, healthcare workers can offer education, counseling, and resources to help families. When counseling parents, it is worth highlighting the importance of spacing out pregnancies and its implications on the financial situation of the family and the child’s physical and psychological health(2). Above all, respecting a family’s decision and supporting them along the way is fundamental for their wellbeing. 

Although not directly involved in family planning, medical students are involved with early adolescents’ guidance through comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). CSE entails education and learning about one’s sexuality from a social, physical, cognitive, and emotional standpoint(7). Students can provide information in an informal or formal way based on scientific evidence while keeping the content age-appropriate. By understanding physiology, sexuality, and reproductive anatomy, adolescents can develop a healthy sexual life(7). Education about the menstrual cycle, puberty and the psychological and physical changes that accompany them, can elevate discomfort that accompany normal body changes(8). It is essential to discuss the different contraceptive methods that are available. These can be considered an early step for family planning and avoidance of unintended pregnancy. Finally, discussing sexually transmitted diseases and providing ways to prevent them can promote a healthier future for them and their partners(8). 

Family planning and CSE are interrelated. They both are about freedom of choice and the right to life and liberty but at different stages of life. This shows that education has no age; at every stage of life more information becomes pertinent and that’s when the role of healthcare workers comes in place to guide and support families through their life decisions. 


  1. Family planning/contraception methods. (2022). Retrieved 24 May 2022, from
  2. Informed Consent: Family Planning. Retrieved 24 May 2022, from
  3. Bahk, J., Yun, SC., Kim, Ym. et al. Impact of unintended pregnancy on maternal mental health: a causal analysis using follow up data of the Panel Study on Korean Children (PSKC). BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 15, 85 (2015).
  4. Yazdkhasti, M., Pourreza, A., Pirak, A., & Abdi, F. (2015). Unintended Pregnancy and Its Adverse Social and Economic Consequences on Health System: A Narrative Review Article. Iranian journal of public health44(1), 12–21.
  5.  Monea, E., & Thomas, A. (2011). The High Cost of Unintended Pregnancy. Brookings. Retrieved 25 May 2022, from
  6. Family Planning | Healthy People 2020. (2020). Retrieved 24 May 2022, from
  7. What is comprehensive sexuality education?. Comprehensive Sexuality Education Implementation Toolkit. Retrieved 24 May 2022, from
  8. Why comprehensive sexuality education is important. UNESCO. (2018). Retrieved 25 May 2022, from

About the author

Mariam Mohamed is a first-year medical student at the University of Montreal. Prior to starting medical school, she completed a Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University in Canada. Her passion to support others has driven her to have this career shift.

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: