I love basal body temperature (BBT) charts. It is one of the most natural ways to track your cycle. It also helps me as a practitioner to identify potential roadblocks that prevent ovulation and conception. Chinese medicine dissects the BBT very differently than Western medicine. Every spike or dip tells a story about the energy flow of the body.
Charting your BBT however, can be a frustrating experience. What do all the numbers mean and what can you tell from the chart? A lot of patients give up on charting after a month or two because they simply find it draining to try to interpret the chart and get up at the same time every day. I hope this blog post will help you regain your sanity and the desire to start charting again. First though, let’s learn how to chart your BBT.
Finding Your BBT
BBT is the lowest body temperature in a 24-hour period. It is super-duper finicky and sensitive to changes in activity levels. To get the most accurate reading, here’s what you need to do:
You must first purchase a thermometer specifically for measuring BBT. The regular ones that you use when you feel feverish will not suffice. Target and most drug stores sell them for around $25-$30.
You need at least 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep before taking a reading. Meaning, if you wake up around 4 a.m. to use the bathroom, then again at 6 a.m. to get ready for work, a reading at 6 will be inaccurate.
At the same time every morning, preferably before sunrise – before you even get out of bed to talk to your hubby, brush your teeth or start your day – pop a basal thermometer into your mouth.
Record your temperature and time taken, or record it directly onto a chart. There are lots of websites and apps out there that can take the readings and plot them for you. Checkout http://www.fertilityfriend.com. It is a personal favorite.
So, there are lots of challenges to charting your BBT. First, a lot of people don’t get the quality of sleep that they need. That includes restlessness throughout the night. Secondly, every now and then, I’m sure you want to sleep in, especially on the weekends. Last but not least, what do all these numbers mean?! The frustration of trying to interpret the numbers and chart is enough to give anyone a gray hair or two. Here are my solutions to your woes:
If you’re an insomniac, and/or have restless sleep, try taking your temperature in the middle of the night. It will work as long as you have had three hours of sleep, and you can gradually adjust it to your normal waking time. If you are a patient of mine, you’ll know that sleep is a major focus area we work on. If you’re not doing acupuncture, now is a great time to start treatments to begin working on sleep quality.
BBT rises approximately 0.1 degrees every half an hour. So if you wake up earlier or later than usual, you can make an educated guess at what your BBT was at your typical time you take your temperature. I recommend visiting http://www.whenmybaby.com. Click on the temperature adjuster and enter the information. Voila! This also takes the pressure off of having to get up at the crack of dawn on a weekend to take your temperature.
It’s OK to skip a day or two. Cut yourself some slack. What I’ll be looking at is your temperature changes over the course of a few days.
Don’t stress over interpreting the numbers or what the chart means. Use the BBT as a general tool to get a rough idea of what your cycle looks like. Your acupuncturist should be able to help you interpret the chart. If you are not seeing a trend, remember that BBT’s strength doesn’t lie in predicting ovulation, but in confirming it. To help nail down ovulation time, it’s best to combine the BBT with keeping tabs on cervical mucus, or by using OPKs.
And after giving it a try and you’re just not a fan, don’t fret. It’s OK if you don’t want to keep charting. There are many other ways to track your cycle, such as OPK, cervical mucus, etc.
For more information, please contact me. I am always happy to help!