Womens’ health and hormone expert Maisie Hill is with us today on the podcast and you are going to love it!
Maisie shares her extensive background in caring for women with an emphasis on working WITH your menstrual cycle to take exquisite care of yourself.
Maisie understands the grief of miscarriage and has such wisdom to share about how to heal your body and spirit after loss.
She’s the author of Period Power and Perimenopause Power.
I’m asking all the things you’ve always wanted to know about hormones after loss. Her answers are just what you need.
Find Maisie at maisiehill.com
Her books Period Power and Perimenopause Power can be found wherever you buy books.
To schedule a free connection call, click HERE
Follow me on Instagram! @amy.smoothstonescoaching
Visit my website.
Photo provided by Maisie Hill
Music by ZingDog on Pond5
Amy: Welcome. We have a special guest today that I’m so excited about. Her name is Maisie Hill and you are gonna love her so much and I know we’re all gonna learn so much together.
So, Maisie, will you just introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you and your background
Well, first of all, thank you for having me. I, as you know, I’m just such a fan of your work and I’m just like, really grateful for the community and the space that you have created for everyone here, and I’m just really thrilled to come along. So thank you for having me on. I’m Maisie Hill. I wrote a couple of books about hormones and the menstrual cycle. One’s called Period Power The second is called Perimenopause Power. I am a life coach like you and I have a really extensive background in female reproductive health. So before I became a coach, I worked as an acupuncturist and a birth doula. So, for 15, 20 years, all of my work was basically about wombs and ovaries and the impact of what they get up to on people and really looking after women and their families through reproductive life really in, from cycle based issues to fertility, to losses and births, postnatal stuff all the way through to perimenopause. So I’ve seen it all really? Yeah.
Amy: And I love that. I feel like you should write your life story. There’s so much there. And you also have experienced a loss yourself.
So the first question I always ask is, will you tell us about your baby’s life? Any memories of that pregnancy? And kind of a little bit about that little life that was with you briefly.
Maisie: Yeah, it was. I love that you asked this question because I remember when Paul, my partner, and I went through that loss, we were very intentional that we didn’t want how the pregnancy ended to take away from the experience of that pregnancy together. And I’d forgotten all about that until you asked me that question and we were just, it was amazing. Like it was just such a great pregnancy. I was absolutely exhausted. I didn’t have any nausea or anything though, which is quite unusual because the type of pregnancy I had usually results cuz you produce such high levels of hormones cuz it’s an abnormal pregnancy. I had a partial molar pregnancy for everyone listening, so that’s when two sperm fertilized one egg. So it’s just genetically, it’s not a viable pregnancy. And I think that was actually strangely helpful to me in the recovery afterwards. Usually you produce such high levels of hormones as a result of that type of pregnancy that you get really extreme nausea. That’s kind of one of the signs that there’s maybe something amiss. I didn’t have that and it was like, it was just such a relief to me to not have nausea in pregnancy because, you know, so many of my clients had had that over the years.
But Paul and I just, it was really fun to be pregnant together. And, you know, I was just falling asleep at the drop of a hat in like random places. I would just fall asleep and he would be like taking these videos and photos of me for us to laugh at together. And I just enjoyed the bodily experience of it and I felt really connected to myself. I felt just very connected. I think that’s, that’s how I would summarize it.
Amy: Aw, so beautiful. And I’m so sorry, you know, that that baby didn’t get to stay. But, is there a lesson that you learned from going through this that maybe you could share?
Maisie: Hmm. Yeah, I mean, I think so many. I have to say I felt very equipped to go through a loss just because of my work. I kind of knew, I knew the territory and that doesn’t make it easier, but I knew how to care for myself in it and I knew how, more importantly, I knew how to ask to be cared for in it. So, you know, after I went through the miscarriage, I went through a really significant healing period afterwards, and so, you know, the first week I was just, I actually treated it like I had given birth and I did have a labor of sorts really, but in Chinese medicine, we talk about how a miscarriage or a pregnancy loss is more disruptive to your chi and your blood than going through a full-term pregnancy and giving birth without any issues.
So I knew the importance of recovering, like really recovering and not just on a physical level, but an emotional level, a spiritual level. And so, I just let myself fall apart. That first week I stayed in bed, you know, because as a doula I would always say to my clients, oh, once you have your baby, you know, you could spend a week in the bed and then a week around the bed before you start kind of moving out of the house and that kind of thing.
So I did that after the loss as well. And then I started to venture out, but I really. I took time off from my work. My partner got a week of compassionate leave as well from his employment and you know, I just really, I continued to let myself fall apart. I remember like once I felt physically strong enough, I signed up for a 30 day yoga practice and it just meant that every day, there was an hour in my day where I could fall apart on the mat in my practice and I could cry and I could move through things and you know, I really, there’s not many periods of my life where I’ve had like a really strong exercise or movement practice of any kind, but that was really invaluable to me once I felt strong enough for my body to do that.
And so I think the lesson there for me is being, first of all, it’s okay to fall apart. Second of all, you can keep falling apart. Even years later, you can still fall apart and it’s okay to do that. And I think if more people did that, you know, that would be a really beneficial thing. Yeah.
Amy: I love it. I love what you said. Like you knew how to ask to be cared for and you allowed yourself to fall apart. And even that part where you’re talking about you let yourself be in bed, like maybe people listening didn’t give themselves that kind of care, but why not do it now, right?
Maisie: Yeah. It’s never too late. It’s never too late to do it.
Amy: Yeah, those are beautiful lessons and I think those will really be helpful. Thank you. So you kind of touched on this, but we have a belief, and maybe it’s different in different places, but I feel like in the West we kind of have this belief that when you a baby dies, it just kind of disappears, but we know that isn’t the case. So will you explain kind of what happens to our hormones, after a loss? I don’t know if it’s different, like earlier on or later. But it is postpartum, so what is going on in that stage?
Maisie: Yeah, this is, yeah. I’d forgotten about my personal experience of this, but that was also, it was a really wild experience because. So I’ll talk about, maybe I’ll share my experience first, and we can use that as a way to talk about kind of the journey that happens because it is gonna vary depending on an individual’s experience. And there’s lots of other factors beyond hormones as well, like amount of blood loss and things like that as well. Like that can really knock people’s recovery if woman’s lost a lot of blood. But that wasn’t the case for me. But because I’d gone through a labor, I had this crazy high afterwards, like immediately after, like I was just elated and I’ve never heard anyone else talk about that before. So even though there was the devastation and the heartbreak and everything else, the grief. At the same time, I felt elated, like had that post-birth rush of hormones and oxytocin that is so important when it comes to bonding with your baby. But I didn’t have a baby to put that onto, I mean, I did, but I didn’t, and I, the duality of those things all at once was so intense and just so unusual. I’ve never had an experience like it since. I don’t imagine I will, but just that, having that all together, there aren’t, there aren’t words for it. And I was just like, we gotta get outta the hospital. Like I don’t wanna be here. I’ve just gone through this. At the time, trauma, very traumatic experience. It doesn’t feel traumatic to me now, but at the time it was. And I, but I felt elated after, cuz of all the hormones. And I was just like, we gotta get out of here. Like this is, why would we be here when I’m feeling like this? And you know, we got home and I just, I just felt so good. But I didn’t have a baby and, you know, I had Paul, my partner, so, you know, we hugged and we kissed and that oxytocin could come through and then, After that, you know, it was just the crash and into what women after they’ve given birth I usually say, you know, like between days two to four, typically there’s like a hormonal crash and all the hormones that you’ve had during the pregnancy are just moving on through you and coming out, and you know, that’s when people can be quite teary, be struggling, like those kinds of things. So I had that, but I knew that’s what was going on and that kind of made it, I could navigate it cuz I knew physiologically what was going on.
So in pregnancy, very high levels of hormones, and then after you give birth or after a loss, those plummet off and then you’re in, you’ve gone through that kind of acute initial phase. And then it’s the recovery and the coming out of that. And that’s, as I said, gonna vary so much. I have some clients for whom, they start ovulating pretty much right away and just go back into a menstrual cycle. For others, it can take several months, sometimes even longer for their cycle to return, so there’s lots of individual factors there, but it’s, I’m thinking back to my experience, you know, my cycle just came back straight away. It’s like a, it feels good cuz it feels, I think it’s after you’ve had a loss it’s reassuring in some level. Like you have your cycle back, like you’re not broken. Cuz I think there’s always a kind of slight concern that something’s gone wrong, therefore something else might also go wrong. But also, is this, of course not what you wanted? So again, the duality of both of those things.
Amy: Yeah. And I think later on, so I help when people have had a stillbirth, and even, second trimester your milk’s gonna come in. There’s like all the things happening in your body, like as if you had a baby and, but you don’t. And so I think that can be a really big surprise. And I love how you said like, you already knew this and so it really helped you. So I think just learning about our bodies and what happens. And I have to say like your book is amazing to explain that.
It’s amazingly written. Like there’s a lot of science in there and then there’s a lot of how to apply it and, like use it in your daily life or wherever you are in your cycle or pregnancy loss and pregnancy after loss. But, yeah, I think just even acknowledging that there’s a lot going on with your hormones and your grieving. So what’s maybe one thing you would say to someone who, you know, I think most of the people listening have already, like we’ve been through it. So maybe looking back saying, I did not handle that very well. Like I was just kind of a mess with it. What would you say to someone who just really struggled to manage how they’re feeling and reacting in that time period?
Maisie: Oh, you just gotta give yourself so much grace. We really do. I mean, we all know what it’s like cuz we’ve all gone through it. Right. But it’s incredibly challenging to go through in so many ways. I think far more ways than we maybe realize or would expect when you are on the other side of it when it hasn’t happened to you. But when I think back, I mean. I think for me, and this is kind of quite unique to my relationship with my partner, but because I know all this stuff and like, and it’s my experience, I think there were places where we missed the care that he could have done with. And that he did a really fantastic job of creating a safe space for me to fall apart and supporting me, but I don’t think that he had that in the way that he would’ve liked to have had it. Right, and that’s something that I’ve heard quite a few men talk about is the impact on them. And I think it’s only just starting to become a conversation, certainly in the communities that we are in, where men are actually talking about that and, and sharing things and, you know, creating those communities for themselves as well.
Amy: Yeah. And I’ve seen a few, like, there’s a few new podcasts, a few new things happening for men, and I, I love it because it is so needed. But I love that, always self-compassion, right? Always just trusting that you did the best you could in a tough situation. Like it’s physically difficult and it’s emotionally difficult, and.
Maisie: Yeah, and you’ve got all the hormones going on as well, and the grief and you know, you are just trying to do your best in a really challenging time, and we don’t need to add layers of judgment and criticism on top of that.
Amy: Yeah. And I wanted to touch back on something you said about how getting your period back was kind of comforting to you, but for some people that really is traumatic, almost like that blood and that, you know, all these parts of our body, it can be traumatizing and like month after month. So what are some ways that we can take care of ourselves if our period is a trigger?
Maisie: Ooh, I love that question. So where my brain immediately goes to is like, how can we make this as easy as possible? Okay. And so there might be, well now I’m thinking about it. I had for many years earlier on in my life, and it’s kind of what really brought me to the work that I do. I had a long history with really extreme period pain, like completely debilitating, and I did various things and you know, the period pain stopped. Amazing. But I do remember that first period and like the physical sensation of it, right? Because I remember when, and I was starting to think there might be something going on with the pregnancy. I was like, I can feel my abdomen in a different way. And I was like trying to figure out what was going on and it was kind of that sensation of when a period is starting. And so I remember when then after the loss with my first period, like feeling that activity in my abdomen and like feeling the period beginning and it quite naturally taking me back to the experience of the miscarriage. And I just thought, oh, I’m just gonna take painkillers. Right? I don’t need to, there isn’t enough. Pain is not painful, but I’m not ready to experience the physicality of this period, so I’m gonna take painkillers even if I don’t need them for the physical pain. That’s gonna create a bit of a buffer zone for me to give me the distance that I need from this right now. So, it was that. And I think you can think about like, like you said, if it’s the blood that is challenging to see, then can think about. With the blood loss, sometimes the visual of that or the sensation is there and I think, you know, maybe the products that you would usually use around the time that you have your period, maybe you want to change that so that, you know, it’s just whatever accommodations you can make. Even if there’s a part of you saying, oh, I don’t actually need this. Well, maybe you do, maybe not in the way that you might think you do, but maybe it’s okay to do that and just make it as easy as possible. I think also appreciate that when your period is starting, you know, often that’s the point in the cycle that if you are wanting to conceive or you are actively trying to conceive again that’s the point in the same point in cycle that your period is starting is also the time in the cycle that you would find out if you were pregnant. And so there’s the challenge of that and, and at that time, your hormones are very low because the signal for your period to start is that hormone levels plummet towards the end of the second half of your cycle. And there’s an emotional impact, a physical impact of that as well. And so that is the time of the cycle and you know from my book, I refer to it as that in a winter when we feel often the most vulnerable. And exposed and raw and tender, and that’s when all our stuff comes up. Even when you haven’t had a loss and you haven’t had experiences like this. And so after a loss, quite naturally, this is the part where all it’s all gonna be coming up. And you know, maybe this is the point where you hope that you are pregnant and maybe you are waiting for that. So, I think compassion around that time as well. And, and if that was me now going through that, that’s definitely a time in the cycle where I’d try and give myself as much space as I can knowing that that’s when there’s low hormones, when you’re maybe gonna feel more teary and have this stuff come up and just, it’s like going into hibernation mode, you know? And like maybe that’s the time to just get on the sofa with a soft blanket and ease up on aspects of life as much as possible. And I just really love putting on Grey’s Anatomy because it either makes me laugh or it makes me cry, but it’s like a great vehicle for me to release. You know, and to cry. And sometimes we might have a sense of really wanting to cry and to let go and have that release, but not be able to find our way into that. And so that’s when I think, you know, a movie or a TV series that’s gonna help get things moving a bit is gonna be really supportive. And chocolate as well, or the chocolate
Amy: Yes. I highly recommend the chocolate too. And I, so mine is, I have a playlist of like nineties sad country songs. That’s my go-to. If I need to have a good cry, then I just like, I know the songs that I need.
Amy: Well I really like that. Kind of as we finish up, I could talk to you forever, but you do compare our cycle to seasons like spring, summer. Autumn and winter. Could you give us like a one minute description of those seasons. And then I have one last question, kind of about the autumn winter part.
Maisie: Yeah, I would love to. So, basically the seasons of your cycle aren’t set points, this is really important to remember. They’re gonna vary depending on what your cycle’s like, your experience of your cycle, and really the way to get to know yours is by tracking your cycle and how you feel. Like things that feel easy to you, things that feel hard, shift in energy, behavior, that kind of thing. And the time of your winter is around the time your period is starting, until around the time that your period is ending, kind of within that range. And this is a time, you know, to recalibrate to rest if that’s what you feel inclined to do. I think it’s also a time to really connect with our purpose and anything we feel called to do here and…It’s like both in a retreat of sorts, and this is what, you know, a lot of my clients have told me, like, oh, I just kind of wanna go into myself or be left on my own, or, you know, those kinds of things. But at the same time, it can be quite an expansive time as well, and kind of, I don’t know. I think there’s something about those low hormones that really opens us up and can create quite a spiritual experience as well for some people. And once we come out of the period, then we’re going into the inner Spring, and this is when hormones are really starting to pick up. So we go from having low hormones to, they start to increase and that’s typically not always, but typically associated with an increase in energy and mood and kind of life feels a bit more doable again right after the periods ended. And it’s like, okay, I’m back. I’m back in the zone. I’m back to life. And then the closer we get to ovulation, the more those hormones increase. And so ovulation is the Summer, this is when we have the double whammy of estrogen and testosterone and I love that time in the cycle. If you can’t, if you can’t hear the smile on my face as I talk about this part, because this is where we often feel the most confident, the most capable. We have an increase in desires of all kinds. We are often more chatty and social and like wanting to be out in the world. And then at some point after ovulation, this is gonna vary, but our hormones immediately after ovulation drop. For some people, they don’t really notice a difference in how they feel. For some people, it’s like they feel really tired after they ovulate and it kind of takes a while for things to pick up again, but basically the week to two weeks before your period starts again is when you are in your inner Autumn. I was gonna say fall, but I love you said Autumn, so we can go with that and this is, I think it’s a season that can vary the most, but some people feel more wild and more free. Other people feel like more internal, less inclined to want to be out in the world and kind of more happy to just chill out at home. But as I said, there’s no right way to have an experience of your cycle. It’s just what your experience is like. And of course, after a miscarriage or loss of some kind, then you may have a very different experience of your cycle, either in the short term or the long term, and in beautiful ways and in challenging ways as well.
Amy: Yeah, I think the most important part is that we’re aware of it and there’s different things we can do in each season when we kind of are noticing it. It’s like, when do I wanna set goals? When do I wanna curl up on the couch? When you know all of those things, just being aware of your cycle and knowing more about it, I think it’s freeing.
Maisie: Very, yeah, that’s my experience too. It’s a really underrated tool and it’s so incredible watching people, you know, get to know theirs and really using it to your advantage because I mean, I’m 42 now and the last few years my cycle’s gone from being very regular, kind of classic 28 days textbook cycle to sometimes it’s 22, sometimes it’s 26, and so kind of less predictable in length than it used to be. But I still really know my cycle and I know, for instance, my sensory experience of the world is very different in the second half of the cycle compared to the first half of the cycle. And so, there’s certain things that I will set up to do in the parts of my cycle where I feel most able to do them. And there are things that there’s just no way I will do them if they fall in the second half of my cycle or I will do them, but with certain things in place to help me to be able to do them. So I always talk about how working with your cycle like this is like getting a weather report. It gives you a really good idea. It’s not necessarily a hundred percent accurate. We need to leave room for experience on the day, but there are some days and if it’s just chucking it down with rain. Then you might just say, Hey, I’m gonna cancel my plan for the day. I’m gonna stay inside. But most of the time we just kind of need to crack on with life. But we just wear the appropriate things and we put on wellies and raincoats and hats and scarfs, and we just get on with it and the same’s true with your cycle. There might be days where you just think, oh, no, , I’m just gonna shut the door. I’m gonna stay inside, and that’s perfect for me today. But there’s also times where you might just think, oh, well, I’ve got that meeting, or I have this thing to do. What are the things I need to put in place to support my experience of that? And that might be making sure that you eat regularly enough. It can be communicating with the people that you work with or your romantic partner. There’s so many things that can be done, and so I think it’s just a really great thing to be aware of and to use in life.
Amy: Yeah. And I love how you, like, you’re so, I don’t know what the word is, but this is just a part of you. This is a part of your life. It’s a part of your language, but I think what’s most powerful about what you just said is that it’s okay to give ourselves permission to adjust our life based on our cycle. Because we’re in this, I mean, a man’s world, where it’s like every day should be the same. And if it’s a Monday we do this and if it’s a, you know, the weekend we do this. And it’s like, what if you just kind of allow yourself to work with your body and take care of yourself the way you need to be taken care of.
Maisie: Yeah. And I think it, it really creates such a compassionate relationship with ourselves because we’re tending to our needs and really, just being loving and kind to ourselves because it doesn’t help anyone to be like, well, last week I felt like this. Why can’t I feel like that today? It’s like, yeah, but you don’t so why don’t we just get on board with that whilst also using all the tools that you use in your work and I use in my work to, you know, make decisions about how we wanna do things. And sometimes that’s about, you know, changing our thoughts and creating different emotions. And then sometimes it’ll be like, no, I’m gonna be in this emotion.
I do not wanna change this. I’m just gonna feel this. And that’s how today’s going.
Amy: Yeah. Love it. Okay. I can’t let you go without asking because I feel like, so you’d say like the Autumn, the Fall is basically what a lot of people call PMS, right? Right. Yeah. So for me, and I think maybe for a lot of people, it’s when I feel most like giving up. My partner’s breathing is like, really? Oh, like should I even be with this person? Nothing’s working, and it can be really difficult. So then you add like wherever you’re in your grief and how long it’s been, I mean we’ve talked about a lot of it, but how do we navigate this and what are maybe some of the pros and cons of this part of our cycle that most people would say this is the most challenging part, but it also has some good things that you’ve shared.
Maisie: Yeah. Okay. This is such a juicy topic. I love it. Okay, so first of all, I think it’s helpful to understand the physiological reasons for this. So if you think in the first half of the cycle, when you are fertile, your hormones are trying to get you out in the world to find a mate to have sex and reproduce, whereas in the second half of your cycle, your hormones want to keep you safe in case pregnancy has occurred. Whether you are actively trying or you know, even if someone who isn’t in a relationship and doesn’t want to conceive will still experience this in some way, which is why we’re more prone to want to stay at home. And you know, our hormones make our digestion slow down because it gives the body more opportunity to extract nutrients that would support a pregnancy. So there’s all these nuanced ways that our hormones support us. But with that, it’s like you are more likely to see a threat or not see an actual threat. It can mean that, but to perceive threats in your environment. And as you know, I’m autistic, so I have a very heightened sensory experience of the world and anyone eating near me after ovulation I really perceive them as a threat. Like my fight or flight response gets triggered so much and you know, now I just have things set up where I’m like, you know what? You guys eat here, I’m gonna go eat over here. Or like, oh, just do that. And, but I have no problem doing that. I don’t make it mean anything and my family don’t make it mean anything either. But there’s. It’s like in the run up to ovulation when we’re in that fertile window, it’s like the, everything’s amazing. You know, we’ve just got those rose tinted glasses on and we’re just looking at our partners like he’s the best, and oh, this is amazing that this is happening in my life, and like everything’s just hunky dory. And then in the second half of the cycle, It’s like we’re picking up on every single detail in our environment and like there’s the pile at the bottom of the stairs and this that hasn’t been done properly, and why are those dishes still there? And da, da, da. We just see all the faults in people, in ourselves and in our environment. But this is just your hormones, like taking stock of what’s going on around and trying to keep you. You’re like, oh no, that’s the threat. We gotta deal with that. But I think, again, once we know this, we can be like, oh, that’s why that’s going on. But it’s the phrase, or term that comes to mind is non-negotiable, right? There’s just our tolerance goes down. But that can be a good thing because as women, we’re typically socialized to pull up with a lot, right? And to do a lot of the unpaid labor and the emotional labor. And so there’s a great deal that we’re maybe tolerating all the time and finding ways to make it okay all the time and people pleasing and lack of boundaries and all of those things. And then we have this like powerful time in the cycle where the body just goes, no, that is not okay. You need to do this. This needs to change. And it’s like a fire. And it can really feel like that in us, right? . It can be this red hot rage or other ways it can show up. It’s like a simmering resentment and frustration, and I have learnt in my work to really see that as an opportunity to look at what’s working in my life, what isn’t. What are the things I’m really happy with? What do I want to change? And I think the more we can get comfortable with the discomfort of that, right? Cause on one hand it’s like, oh yeah, I, I wanna know what I’m into and what I’m not into. And I wanna make these changes. But often, That is challenging to recognize and to fully sit with. And this is why life coaching’s so fabulous is because it can, you know, help you to honor that and to work through things and initiate any changes. So, as I’ve got older, I’ve like learnt to wield, you know, this part of the cycle and really use it. But I think for many women it’s particularly challenging because there’s a lot of negative connotations about being that way and saying those things. And so again, it’s also a good opportunity to unwind our socialization there. So it can be really fun. It might feel like really, really big and really intense, but I think there’s ways to, to work with it and even to be lighthearted and humorous with it too.
Amy: Thank you. For sure. Just so much information in that season of our life. Like you said, that we’re sometimes just pushing it down and it’s, it’s okay to be honest and really look at what’s happening.
Maisie: Yeah, exactly.
Amy: Okay. Maisie, will you tell us where we can find you?
Maisie: Yeah. And just thank you so much for having me on. This has just been such a great conversation to have and I feel like we could talk for hours about all of the things, so thank you. My website is maisiehill.com. That’s M A I S I E and I’m on Instagram as underscore Maisie Hill underscore. And I have a podcast called the Maisie Hill experience, which you actually helped me to name, so I have to give you props for that.
Amy: Yes, rename . You’re welcome. It’s amazing. It is an experience and I think everyone who’s here listening to you is like, has had an experience, so thank you for sharing your wisdom. I appreciate it.
Maisie: Amazing. Thank you so much.