Basal Body Temperature and Cervical Mucus Charting
If you want to understand your menstrual and fertility cycle and which areas of your cycle need some support, take the time to measure and chart your basal body temperature (BBT).
Looking at BBT charts was not the main focus of discussion and assessment during my Acupuncture Women's Health class, but as I continued to take Traditional Chinese Medicine whole system focused fertility courses, this valuable tool has become one of my favorite assessment tools to work with for fertility clients.
Whether you are trying to get pregnant or trying to avoid pregnancy, it's helpful to estimate when you will ovulate so you can determine your "fertility window." This fertility window is the best time to have sex to increase likelihood of pregnancy (or on the flip side- to avoid these or use extra protection if you are trying to avoid pregnancy). Tracking your BBT and monitoring changes in your cervical mucus will help you determine your fertility window and day of ovulation.
To get your best temperature measurement, take your BBT after a minimum of four hours of relatively uninterrupted sleep and immediately upon waking before you sit up, eat, drink, have sex or go to the bathroom. If you wake up several times in the night or you wake up at very different times everyday, it will be difficult to get accurate BBT readings. Try to take a reading at about the same time each morning. For some women this means setting an alarm, taking their temperature and then going back to sleep.
To get an accurate reading, use a basal body thermometer, these are found in any pharmacy or pharmacy area of a department store. If you can, buy one that measures to the hundredths (98.05), if you can only find one that measures to the tenths that is enough (98.0). While there are several options that use apps, I strongly encourage you to disconnect from your phone at night for optimal sleep (keep it in another room at night or set your phone to airplane mode). I recommend just getting a couple glass thermometers (in case you drop one) because they are inexpensive and won’t bombard you with any type of electromagnetic waves that can potentially disrupt sleep.
All women have some temperature variations to their cycle. Fluctuations in temperature can take place if we get a cold or flu, have a poor night sleep, are under high stress, get up much earlier or later or had a night of drinking too much alcohol. To truly determine patterns for ovulation, you will need to measure your BBT every day for a few months. Your patterns will also change as you balance your hormones and control inflammation, blood sugar, stress and create better movement and sleep habits. This is all part of TCM lifestyle counseling that I guide you through while you receive acupuncture preconception treatments.
During the follicular phase, before ovulation, your BBT may range from about 97.2 to 97.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The day you ovulate, you should see an uptick of 0.5 to 1.0 degree in your BBT. During the follicular phase, you may notice your temperature occasionally spiking, but if it doesn't stay up, it was probably just stress you probably haven't ovulated yet. After ovulation, during the luteal phase, your temperature should stay elevated around 98.1F until your next period. If you become pregnant, your temperature will stay elevated throughout your pregnancy.
Taking the time to check cervical mucus is also an invaluable tool for understanding your fertility window and ovulation days. You can track this on your BBT chart as well. The most fertile cervical mucus has an egg-white stretchiness to it and is produced during the fertility window before ovulation.
For your best chance of conceiving, plan to have sex at least every other day while you have egg white type mucus. If your cycle is predictable, you can time sex a few days before you expect the uptick in your BBT. You're most likely to conceive if you have sex during the two days before you ovulate and on the day of ovulation, this ensures a healthy supply of sperm in your fallopian tubes when an egg is released.
Use this chart (BBT.pdf, BBT.xlsx) to track your temperature and cervical mucus changes. If you have any questions about how to read this chart, or how to boost your preconception health to promote optimal fertility, schedule your appointment now.
Inspired Balance, LLC Sarah Aiken-Felling, MAOM, LAc 715-831-8998 www.inspiredbalance.com