Friday, October 19, 2012

How to Chart Your BBT

**Warning- if you are not a female I highly suggest you not read this post!  If you are a female- please know I am a very open person.  While there is nothing here that will offend you, we are talking fertility!**
Photo cred

 So, when Daniel and I started trying to have a baby fourteen months ago (little did I know then that we would still be childless), I started researching baby-making tips and ovulation signs.  I kept reading "chart your Basal Body Temperature" (BBT) but decided I didn't really think we needed it.  Just have fun, relax, and you will get pregnant, right?
Mmm, not so likely, at least for us.
I was on the pill for 5 years before trying for a baby, and I had no idea what to expect coming off of it.  It's kind of one of those things where doctors will read a list of all the things that could be happening, and, whataya know!  They are the same signs for pregnancy, menopause, cancer, and probably gout (okay, probably not.  But, it is a little ridiculous that everything is "normal", amen?! A list of what is not normal would be more beneficial).  The most common concern is the return of normal menses.  It's "normal" to have a serge of fertility right after coming off the pill, and it is "normal" for your body to take six months to readjust and begin ovulating again.  Mix in the "normal" odds for conceiving a child within one year of trying, and you have are all but buried in statistics that make you feel as though you will never get to be a mommy.
So, after about four months of irregular periods and ovarian cysts, I decided to check into "temping", as we call it.  A friend of mine from college suggested I read Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler.

There is also an interactive website for this book.
Amazing.  Every woman should own and read this book.  It is a fantastic resource that explains how our reproductive system functions, why it works the way it does, and the signs we can look for to know what the heck is going on in there.
This book explains the concept of the Fertility Awareness Method as a method of birth control or a means to get pregnant.  Many confuse this with the Rhythm Method.  This is not the rhythm method.  The rhythm method is a method of birth control in which you track your menstrual cycles over time to predict when you, personally, are ovulating.  It is often called the calendar method because this is what you use- a calendar.  If you think you are ovulating at a certain time, get busy, don't get busy, or use a barrier.  While it works great for some families (usually women who have perfectly regular and consistent cycles), it doesn't for others because we can ovulate at different times in different months.  Even if you have no hormonal problems, things such as stress, travel, or sickness can delay ovulation.  If you think you ovulated on the 14th because you usually do (and planned accordingly), but actually ovulated on the 18th, then you may not achieve the outcome desired (whether it was to get pregnant or not get pregnant).
The Fertility Awareness Method (or FAM) is different in that you become fully aware of what your body is doing in your cycle or what it has already done.  In essence, you are aware of your body's fertility status.  This book teaches you the three fertility signs in women:
  • Basal Body Temperature
  • Cervical Mucus (I warned you!)
  • Cervical Position
The female reproductive system is governed by a "symphony" (as my OB calls it) of estrogen and progesterone (BTW, I am astonished at how intelligently our bodies are designed, down to the most minuscule detail of hormones).  As these hormones dominate or fall below the other, our bodies experience changes.  At the beginning of our cycle, estrogen is dominate and steady.  If you take your BBT every morning, you should see a trend of temperatures that are in the same range, +/- about .2 degrees.  As we approach ovulation, our estrogen levels begin to increase in the hopes of reaching a hormonal threshold to "kick out" a viable egg.  When this happens, cervical mucus and cervical position changes (I'm not going into that- read the darn book!).  Once we have ovulated, progesterone takes over as the dominate hormone, warming the uterine environment in the hopes of incubating a little fertilized egg (whether or not fertilization ever happened).  Our BBT temperatures rise at least .4 degrees and stay high during the "luteal" phase of our cycle-again, think "incubation".  After 12-14 days, our bodies will either keep incubating a fertilized egg and keep building progesterone (and you get that blessed positive stick!), or our body will sense the lack of pregnancy hormones and let estrogen take center stage again- enter stage left Aunt Flow.
Here is the catch:
  • You have to buy a special oral BBT thermometer that reads to the hundredth degree (I just had to buy a new one because my husband lost ours, which is why I remembered I wanted to blog this- it was $9 at Walmart)
  • You have to take it at the same time every single day (which means I take it at 5:45 every day, even if it isn't a school day-but I just go back to sleep because my thermometer is digital and saves it until the next time I turn it on, which is when I really wake up and can record it)
  • You have to have been asleep for at least 3 hours and you cannot get up and go pee at, say, 4am because it will mess everything up (but I don't have this problem)
These seem like burdens, but really, they are so easy to adopt into your normal routine.  In fact, it was hard for me to stop doing these things once I was pregnant.  But, now I am back at it and, of course, loving it once again.  You can chart on paper, at the TCOYF website (linked under the photo of the book), or my personal favorite- Fertility Friend. They even have an app!
Here is my chart from the cycle I got pregnant.  I have made notes so that you can see the conclusions I can draw from see my temperatures.
Alright.  What the heck are we staring at?!
The most important things are these:
  • My trend in "low" estrogen temps.  They fluctuate some, but for the most part stay in the same range.  I had a outlier on CD (cycle day) 5.  Maybe I hadn't gotten good sleep or something.  No big.
  • You can see that I had my period for 4 days, then recorded my cervical mucus.  When it is considered "fertile", fertility friend puts it in green, like a green GO light (read the book for more info).  Once this happens, either get busy, don't get busy, or use a barrier. My cervical mucus was "green lighted" four days before I ovulated (CD 16) (and I just proofread that- please read my CHART was green, not my mucus!!).
  • OPK is code for Ovulation Predictor Kits- i.e. the best thing every invented.  It picks up on the hormone in your body present right before you ovulate (like, day before!).  So, you can see I had several negative starting on CD 9.  I got a positive one on 15.  
  • Ovulation Day- CD 16.  The day you ovulate, you will see a rise in BBT at least .4 degrees.  It must stay high for 3 days to confirm ovulation.  This is kind of tricky.  Once your temp has gone up, it is too late to fertilize the egg.  SO, looking for that increase is not your sign to get busy.  That is why assessing your cervical mucus and position is important.  You have to hit the sheets in the days beforehand (BD is code for "baby dance").  Once you have seen 3 high temps after ovulation, you are safe to BD without getting pregnant, unless you ovulate again- highly unlikely.  Another great perk to knowing the exact date of ovulation is that you will have a more accurate due date if you do get pregnant this cycle.  OB's determine your due date with the assumption that you ovulate on CD 14.  Well, I didn't.  Granted, that's only 2 days and we all know babies don't care when mommies say they are supposed to come out.  However, especially if you are irregular, this will be a great tool for you.
  • Trend in "high" progesterone temps.  This will happen regardless of whether or not you have a fertilized egg.  They day it falls, you will start your period-estrogen is back in the spotlight.  If it doesn't fall after 18 days (14 is considered "textbook"), then you are pregnant. I temped until I was 16 DPO (days past ovulation) and had already gotten several positive pregnancy tests, with a positive blood BETA on CD 16.
This, dear sisters, is where I see the proof in the pudding- 
I had a positive OPK reading the day before my temp rose.  Meaning my temperatures followed the exact pattern they should to show the fluctuation of hormones and indication of ovulation.  Hallelujah.
So, who should do this and how can you benefit?
I will tell you from personal experience that I fell in love with charting for several reasons.  The month before I started charting, my cycle was 65 days long and I thought I was pregnant because it had never happened to me before.  I kept googling "negative pregnancy test but really pregnant" because I didn't know what was going on.  In fact, I guess I didn't know if I ever had ovulated in my life- and knew I certainly hadn't on the pill.  I finally got my period and started charting.  I found out, from my PSYCHO chart, that I wasn't ovulating and my hormones were all messed up.  My temps were going up and down and up and down.  There was no pattern, no rise in .4 degrees.  I clearly knew I was having annovulatory cycles.  I was able to take my chart to my OB (because, if you are having any long-term trouble conceiving, they will send you home and tell you to come back in a month with a BBT chart.  I was ahead of the game!) and she immediately confirmed my suspicions and had me come in for hormone testing.  I kept charting and this continued until June, when she said my lack of ovulation at this point was not normal and I needed fertility meds (Clomid) if that was the option we chose as a family to pursue.  Desperate, I agreed and ovulated the first time I took it and got pregnant the next month (which, if you haven't kept up, it ended in an ectopic pregnancy.  I am charting again, but our trying is on hiatus).  
In my opinion, which granted means nada, whether you are trying to have a baby or keep from having one, knowing what your body is doing is an incredible reassurance.  As a young woman, I felt that my doctors never really gave me any options for other means of birth control or spoke with me about the side effects of long term hormonal birth control (which I believe really messed me up and I probably won't ever do it again.  That does not mean I think it is evil and I know lots of women who have no side effects, short or long term.  Carry on, sistas!).  I'm not blaming these doctors for our infertility, and I can't even say that had I known this then I would have chosen it over the pill.  I'm not even saying that I think every family should go off of the pill and do this.  What I am saying is that we, as women, should be aware of how our bodies work.  After knowing this, I think we should make a decision (whatever that may be) with our families as to how we want to approach (or not approach) birth control or family planning.
Anyway, off my soap box.  I hope that, if anything, this is a resource for you if you plan on trying the Fertility Awareness Method.  I am beyond thankful for it!
I have had some people ask where to find the thermometer and what it looks like- is it oral?  Or do you put it..up.. there?
First of all, this is what my thermometer looks like.  I bought this exact package:
I found it in the thermometer section by the pharmacy, not by the -other- birth control items (which is where I first looked).  Take your temperature orally.  This has nothing to do with your va-jay-jay.


  1. thankyou for this :)i have a 3 yr old beautiful wee man and am trying very hard to give him a sibling, im 28 years old and had have been trying 5 months, with one miscarriage, 4 months ago. today i brought a thermometer after reading this and am so excited for my 1st month of charting, im very in tune with my body ( cervical mucous and position, and have cramps for 2 days, day 14 and 15 of my 28 day cycle. but am very disheartened every month, as we all are, when it ends with aunt flow taking over..... charting will be my new project and your info has given me more hope. So, thankyou!!!

    1. I am in love with charting. It is so amazing. It is so helpful to see what's going on. For me, even 18 months into TTCing (oh, little did I know when I was in month 5 that we'd still be there!), being able to chart makes me feel like I can DO something. I've been running into sleepless nights, though, which makes me stress out even more because I think MY TEMPERATURES! But, I really love it. I wish every woman would look into it!

  2. I found your blog post after searching for BBT examples. A friend of mine let me borrow this book a month ago after I had been off BC for almost 6 months with no normal period. Wow! I can't believe i never cared to know this much about my body! I am charting my first month with a natural period and was able to see a clear dip and then rise...and it has stayed risen for 11 days now, hoping this is it! Thanks for sharing your story with others. Your post was very encouraging :)

  3. This is really helpful - thank you! I just noticed that my conceiveeasy ttc kit came with a free basal body therm and chart, but I didn't really know what to make of it!

  4. thank you SO much for this blog post. i came across you on google and i am so happy. i have been ttc for five long years and i have just been through the most crazy cycle, 43 days long, and did the same thing you did, googling am i pregnant even though i have a negative test.. etc etc.. then my period finally arrived. turns out i am in the same boat as you. i have just started my first clomid cycle yesterday and i bought a thermometer last night to start temping, without knowing what the heck to do. your chart and blog post is SO HELPFUL and gives me so much hope. thank you millions, you have really made me feel more at ease about this and i am excited to chart this month. i will buy some opks too i think now. thank you!! love Donna in Melbourne! :D

  5. I'm so glad I randomly happened upon this blog post! I too am struggling with a whacked out chart, and my OB told me to try for a full year before they'll begin testing. :( So I started seeing an Acupuncturist who is also giving me herbs to help my body and hormones get on track. I also attribute my issues to being on hormonal BC for too long, over ten years. I go back to the DR. next month, and the acupuncturist doesn't think I'm not ovulating just not everything is falling into place quite right, so I have high hopes! Especially after reading your story!

  6. How, exactly do you draw a coverline on your chart? Everyone seems to have differing ideas about how this is done. We've been TTC for over 7 years. We did 6 IUI's but are now just trying on our own.

  7. I loved this! The way you explained it made much more since then google. We have been ttc for about 6 mos truthfully, I have just started charting so I was confused. I was supposed to start cycle 2 1/12/16 however AF never showed. Check CM and yesterday it was E and today 1/13/16 its creamy. My BBT I just started tracking and both morning temps where 97.4 so I think the HPT was right and its A BFN :( but Hey I still missed by 1 day so fingers crossed.

  8. Hey Katie,
    what's your opinion on all those new apps that pop up every so often (like clue or glow)?
    We're trying now for our second little one and I'm doing research on what's new. Last time around I was using charting much like what you describe, but it was taking a lot of my time. I want something easier now, maybe an app, maybe one of the gadgets that do the charting for you. Have you personally used something like that (daysy -

  9. im confused because i had a temp dip in the morning and a positive opk that same night. i thought i had a 24-48 hour window based on the positive opk, but the next day my temp rose. did i miss the window?


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