Your monthly menstrual cycle is influenced by two key hormones. The first half of your cycle (called the follicular phase) is primarily influenced by estrogen. Estrogen helps your ovaries produce an egg that is released during ovulation. During the second half of your cycle (the luteal phase), progesterone takes over. The progesterone will dominate until it falls in anticipation of your menstrual period.
From a TOM perspective, estrogen is Yin; it is a “cool” hormone. Progesterone is Yang and is “warm”. Prior to ovulation, when estrogen is dominant, your body temperature is marginally cooler than after ovulation, when progesterone is in charge. Given these facts, an increase in your basal body temperature (BBT) indicates that you have ovulated.
BBT charting is a unique way to help you and your doctor understand your fertility pattern and pinpoint your most fertile days in order to greatly improve your chances of conception. It allows you to have a direct insight into what is going on in your body without using any potentially invasive or costly procedures. In addition to rapid pregnancy achievement, charting can alert you to some potential problems or complications, including:
- Anovulation: If your chart never shows a sustained bi-phasic pattern, characterized by the lack of a temperature rise, it is likely that you are not ovulating. Charting can alert you to this fact, allowing you to seek medical intervention.
- A luteal phase defect: Ideally, the luteal phase is 14 days. A luteal phase shorter than 10 days can impair fertility, as it makes it difficult for the fertilized embryo to implant in the uterus. You can easily spot a short luteal phase on a BBT chart; it is seen by the absence of at least 10 high temperatures.
- A thyroid condition: Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can impair fertility. An under-active thyroid can sometimes be seen in very low temperatures, while a hyper-active thyroid is manifested in unusually high temperatures.
- Male factor infertility: If you are consistently having sex on your fertile days but fail to become pregnant, it may be due to a problem with your partner’s sperm. Once again, charting can alert you to this fact and allow you to seek intervention.
The best and most consistent results are obtained with the use a digital basal thermometer, but any thermometer will do. The thermometer should be able to measure to the 0.10 degree, since the temperature changes in charting can be quite small. There are digital basal thermometers priced under $15.00 that beep when it is ready to go, light up, and store temperatures so that they don’t have to be recorded right away.
We will supply you with a graph to chart your temperatures at your initial evaluation, however, it is advised that in the interim, you use the chart that comes with most digital basal thermometers. It can be enlarged and duplicated on any copy machine. We recommend that you do your charting on-line. Fertility Now provides this service free. You can post your daily temperatures online. The software also gives hints about your cycle.
Already having a BBT chart at your first office visit will assist Acupuncture Atlanta in assessing the likely reason for your difficulty in conceiving by enabling us to observe the fluctuating temperature patterns that occur throughout your cycle, and assist us in more quickly developing a diagnostic workup and treatment plan.
Basal temperature is your temperature when you first awaken in the morning. To be accurate, the temperature must be taken at the same time every day. That means you take your temperature before you do any thing else. The alarm goes off and you stick the thermometer in you mouth. It’s that simple. Fortunately, you don’t have to fully awaken; just let the thermometer do its thing and then you can go back to sleep if you like.
It is best to begin charting on the first day of your cycle; this is the first day that you see true red menstrual flow. Typically, pre-ovulatory temperatures range from 97.0 – 97.6 degrees, although there is a wide range of “normal” temperatures. One day, you will notice that your temperature is higher than it has been on previous days. The general rule is that you have ovulated when your temperature rises 0.2 degrees higher than any temperature from the previous 6 days, and it stays elevated for at least 3 consecutive days. In general, post-ovulatory temperatures range from 97.7 upward.
Unfortunately, using a BBT chart will only tell you when you have ovulated. It doesn’t predict ovulation. Occasionally, you may experience a temperature dip on the day of ovulation. This is caused by an estrogen surge right at ovulation. Unfortunately, this does not always occur. In order to predict ovulation, it is necessary to track your cervical mucous.
When your period is over, you may notice that your cervical mucous is sticky or chalky. As you get closer to ovulation the fluid will get thinner. Eventually, the mucous turns to the consistency of egg whites. This is egg white cervical mucous, and it is highly fertile. Once your temperature increases after ovulation, you will notice that your cervical fluid gets thicker or dries up all together.
Some women are able to check for cervical mucous externally. Some women don’t have enough fluid to feel externally and need to do an internal check. This is most easily accomplished while sitting on the toilet. Just make sure you have clean hands, and use your index or middle finger to reach up towards your cervix. It’s the best way to gauge your fertility at any given time of the month.
Another highly effective way to predict ovulation is to examine your saliva under a microscope for “ferning”. Fertile Focus is an accurate, easy-to-use ovulation microscope that allows you to predict fertility by viewing changes in your saliva patterns as you approach your most fertile time of the month. It’s re-usable and the size of a lipstick case, so it’s portable and allows you to test anytime and anywhere!
When a woman is about to ovulate, her saliva forms distinct crystal, “ferning” patterns due to a surge in estrogen and a resultant increase of salt/salinity in saliva. Through a high-quality, 50X glass lens, Fertile Focus allows you to monitor the rise and fall of your estrogen as you approach ovulation, peak fertility. And with Fertile Focus, you are able to watch the gradual development of ferning patterns – providing an early-detection of ovulation you won’t get with LH urine tests.
Nonetheless, it is recommended that you also use a LH urine Ovulation Test. Luteinizing hormone in elevated quantities causes ovulation. During the menstrual cycle only a small amount of LH is made, but in the middle of the cycle LH briefly increases. This increase is called the “LH surge” and precedes ovulation. Conception is most likely to occur within two to three days following the LH surge. The Midstream Urine LH Ovulation Test is specifically designed to detect your LH surge – the time when you are likely to ovulate, the period of peak fertility. It is best done once per day, at about the same time between 10:00 A.M. and 8:00 P.M. beginning several days before the middle of your menstrual cycle.
By using one or more of the above methods (i.e. analysis of cervical mucous, examining your saliva for ferning, or testing your urine for your LH surge), in combination with using a BBT chart, is a great way to pinpoint your fertile times. The general rule to remember is: Unless instructed by your physician to do otherwise, you should have intercourse every day that you see fertile cervical mucous, saliva ferning, or a positive urine LH surge, and continue until you see a temperature rise. This increases your chances of conceiving.
If you and your partner have normal fertility, you should achieve success within 4 to 6 cycles of charting your BBT. This occurs because charting and tracking your cervical mucous allow you to have sex during your fertile times. The egg only lives for approximately 24 hours, so timing is everything.
Moreover, it is a myth to assume that every woman ovulates on day 14 of her cycle. In fact, a woman’s normal pattern can mean ovulation on day 10 or day 21. Using the chart enable you to pinpoint your unique ovulatory schedule