If you are trying to conceive, there seems to be no end to the abbreviations and acronyms that fly around when women are chatting, whether in person or in online forums.
One of the most important acronyms for a woman to know in my opinion is BBT – Basal Body Temperature. This is your temperature when your body is in full resting state, and knowing how to track and interpret it throughout your cycle will help you pin point ovulation and any issues which may be interfering with your fertility. By tracking my BBT, I was able to identify low progesterone levels by charting alone, which we now know was caused by endometriosis. As you can see, it can be a very powerful tool for fertility.
A note of caution: while charting your BBT can help give you an idea of what’s going on with your cycles, it can also interfere with your fertility if you stress about it too much. My personal advice is to chart for two or three months and then take a step back, giving yourself a breather. Also while charting, remember that it’s okay if you forget to take your temperature once or twice during the month. Any doctor, naturopath or acupuncturist I’ve ever had has always told me that a few missing temps will not make or break your chart!
What Gear Will I Need?
The first thing you’ll need is a chart. You can download andprint charts from various sources online. There are also online sources where you can enter your temperatures and details daily on the site for them to chart for you. If you search for “BBT Charts” in any search engine you will have many options at your finger tips! There are also endless numbers of Smart Phone apps for charting.
Next, of course, you’ll need a thermometer. You’ll want to get a BBT thermometer because it will read to 1/10th of a degree. The difference between a regular digital and a BBT thermometer is that a digital will give you a read out of 98.2°F, while the BBT Thermometer will give you a read out of 98.23°F. The last number is important; for many women when your temperature rises after ovulation, it may not rise a full degree, and you’ll want to know your exact temperature. You can find BBT Thermometers in any drug store in the family planning aisle. They range in price from $9.95 to $19.95, and they are basically all the same.
I Have My Chart, Now What the Heck Do I Do?
Keep your thermometer and chart on your bedside table. Make sure you take your temperature as soon as you wake, before you get out of bed. Your Basal Body Temperature is technically the temperature of your body during its resting state, but of course you can’t take that temp because, you know . . . you’re busy sleeping! It’s important to take your temperature very close to the same time every morning for the most accurate reading. And, if like me, you’re in the shower before you remember to take your temperature, do not stress! A few missing temps won’t affect too much, and stressing will do a lot more harm than temping will do good!
Now it’s time to detect ovulation. Keep in mind, your temperature will rise after ovulation, so you will need a month or two of temping to get an idea of when you ovulate by looking at full charts. To detect ovulation you will see two sets of temperature elevations. Your first set of temperatures pre-ovulation will be lower than your second set, which are post-ovulation. Just after ovulation you will notice a rise in your temperature that starts your second set. Remember the rise can be as little as .2 degrees Fahrenheit or .1 degrees Celsius. It’s best to wait three days before confirming your ovulation day.
After you see that you’ve had three days of high temperatures it is safe to draw your cover-line to show the day you ovulated. Your temperatures will still rise and fall during your post-ovulation days, so do not worry if you have slight drops in temperature. You can use other signs to confirm ovulation, such as examining the color and consistency of your cervical mucus, or even by using ovulation predictor kits to help you detect ovulation.1
Remember to relax, and try not to stress. If after a month or two of charting you’re finding it too stressful and that it forces you to think about TTC when you’re trying not to, don’t be afraid to tell practitioners you don’t want to chart. (I certainly have!) You know your body, your emotions, and your coping abilities best. At the end of the day, remind yourself that this is simply one tool among many others that may help you understand your fertility.
Happy Baby Dancing and Baby Dust to you!
Arpita has a background in sociology and psychology and is studying to be a Post Partum Doula. She has a special interest in helping mothers establish the breastfeeding relationship and sharing information about natural/attachment parenting. She lives in Canada with her husband. As they await their first pregnancy, Arpita writes about alternative fertility treatments including acupuncture for fertility, naturopathic medicine and ayurvedic medicine (and offers giveaways) at Up, Down and Natural. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, cooking, baking, knitting, scrapbooking and photography.
This article has been edited from a previous version originally published at Up, Down & Natural.
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