Christmas is a time for joy and celebration with loved ones, family and friends. Many open the champagne amongst the glittering tinsel and reflect upon the past twelve months, and lets face it what can be more magical than a child’s first Christmas?
However, the festive atmosphere is something very different for those trying for a family or suffering with loss of miscarriage and failed IVF attempts which can bring about depression, despair and isolation.
One in seven couples suffer with infertility and many can feel isolated as the festivities begin with families and friends and some suffer in silence as the depression mounts up. The symptoms of depression can vary and be complex between people and many don’t realise that they are suffering with depression, but people are likely to suffer with feeling low with sadness, hopelessness with low self-esteem, intolerant of others, feelings of guilt or inadequate and losing interest in things that once gave happiness.
I often find in clinic that patients talk openly about their feelings and know that those who experience infertility or miscarriage can find the festive season difficult to cope with but they try put on a happy smile especially when around those with young children or avoid them altogether.
(Deka and Sarma 2010) suggest that women tend to have increased psychological responses such as reactive depression then men when experiencing infertility issues, although both have a sense of loss and feelings of incompetence. However research has shown that women with infertility have depression with similar rates to those suffering heart disease or cancer, but yet those that have infertility depression are likely to suffer in silence and isolate themselves away from family and friends at a time they are needed most due to the taboo subject.
Reactive depression no matter the catalyst or cause, has the same psychological symptoms, and those who have infertility issues can experience many stresses that can lead to depression if not recognised or dealt with.
Although some have support and are able to get into the festive spirit we must also recognise that some may be going through elements of depression during this festive time. Support can make such a difference and an important factor when it comes from family and friends and can be shown in many different ways. Listening, understanding and knowing how to not be insensitive like asking the question ' so isn't it about time you started a family then' at a gathering of family and friends when the children are running around excitedly.
It is true that such a personal experience is not one that is shared so openly, but with so many experiencing problems with fertility and with such media coverage, awareness is starting to happen and support is there for many.
In conjunction with family and friends support, there are trained counsellors specialising in infertility who are registered with the British Infertility Counselling Association (www.bica.net) where you can find a counsellor in your area. Alternatively there are some good online forums of couples who share their experiences and may be able to offer some support for those who are going through infertility issues and those who want to understand its effects.
It is common practice for those undergoing assisted treatments such as IVF to have counselling offered within clinics as part of HEFA regulations, but for those not undergoing any assisted treatment your GP can help get you the right support.
However difficult at this time of year, it is important to get out and about and to socialise with loved ones family and friends through this festive season.
An easy way to combat stress and depression is to have regular exercise or walks in the fresh air which releases powerful endorphin chemicals which lifts moods and promotes the good feel factors in your body, so make the most of the festive break and take some good walks on those bright winter days and remember you are not alone and there is professional help should you need.