Tanya Smith Acupuncturist Chinese Medicine Practitioner

The How’s and Why’s of the Basal Body Temperature Chart

Have your thermometer close to your bedside

Have your thermometer close to your bedside

For most women, there are only about 30 days in a year where there is a reasonable chance of conceiving. For a successful pregnancy to occur, a whole chain of events need to come together precisely in your body, in your partnerʼs body and in your relationship on one of those days. Being able to accurately identify these relatively rare opportunities raises the odds of success considerably. Watching external clues of the body provides us with a method to do exactly that.

One of the great strengths of Chinese medicine is figuring out what is going on inside the body from watching or feeling what is going on on the outside of the body. The BBT chart has become a tool that reveals to TCM specialists so much more information than the timing of ovulation. It is a very useful diagnostic tool.

Recording the body temperature each morning, and watching the secretions of the cervix will, over time, build an individual profile which is as informative as it is interesting. In addition, the changes in breast symptoms, abdomen symptoms, bleeding patterns, and general symptoms paint a picture that provides an accurate insight into the inner workings of those hormonal tides which ebb and flow each month.

Why Does Charting Work?

During your monthly menstrual cycle, two hormones share star billing. The first half of your cycle (called the follicular phase) is dominated by estrogen. Estrogen helps your ovaries ripen 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.

With that background, it’s easy to explain the theory behind charting. Estrogen is a “cool/yin” hormone. Progesterone is “warm/yang”. 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 basal body temperature indicates that you have ovulated.

Getting Started

The only equipment you need is a reliable thermometer. I prefer to use a digital basal thermometer, but any thermometer will do. Make sure that the thermometer you are using will measure to the .10 degree, as the temperature changes at issue in charting can be quite small.You will also need a graph that displays a range of temperatures along the days of your cycle. These are my favorite charting programs. Taking Charge of your Fertility  Kindara

I have my thermometer, what do I do now?

Great, you’re ready to get started! BBT charting measures basal temperature. Basal temperature is your temperature at the instant you awaken in the morning. That means that you take your temperature before you stand up, go to the bathroom, take a sip of water, brush your teeth, talk on the phone, or kiss your spouse. In my routine, the alarm goes off and I stick the thermometer in my mouth. It’s that simple.

To be accurate, the temperature must be taken at the same time every day. During the week, I get up at 5:30. I take my temperature at that time. That means that I must also take my temperature at 5:30 on the weekends. Fortunately, I don’t have to fully awaken; I just let the thermometer do its thing and then I go back to sleep. It records the temperature and I can retrieve it and put it in my chart when I wake up later.

The easiest way to begin charting is to start on the first day of your cycle. Cycle Day One is the first day that you see true red menstrual flow (not spotting days). You simply take your temperature and record it on your chart. As the days go by, it is normal for your temperature to fluctuate a little through the follicular phase. Midcycle, 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 .2 degrees higher than any temperature from the previous 6 days, and it stays elevated for at least 3 consecutive days.

So, will charting tell me when I’m going to ovulate?

Using a BBT chart will only tell you when you have already 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 mucus.

When your period is over, you may notice that your cervical mucus is sticky or chalky. As you get closer to ovulation the fluid will get thinner. Eventually, the mucus turns to the consistency of egg whites. This is egg white cervical mucus, and it is highly fertile. As a general rule, you and your partner should be intimate every day or every other day that you see egg white cervical fluid. 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 mucus 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. I realize that this seems odd, but it’s the best way to gauge your fertility at any given time of the month.

The analysis of cervical mucous, in combination with using a BBT chart, is a great way to pinpoint your fertile times. The rule to remember is this: You should have intercourse every day or every other day that you see fertile cervical mucus, and continue until you see a temperature rise. Following this rule will ensure that you have intercourse on the days that promise the best chance of conceiving!

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