I have many fertility patients who are using fertility predictor kits to track when they are likely ovulating. I find these kits, which require a woman to pee on a stick every day for many days, to be less accurate, more expensive and more inconvenient than good old fashioned BBT charts. A BBT chart tracks a woman’s Basal Body Temperature (the temperature upon first waking in the morning) and also the consistency of her cervical fluid. It allows for additional information, such as illness, insomnia, intercourse, whatever the woman wants to add. Using the chart instead of the kit, a woman learns to understand her own body, her potential fertile time, and gives her the power to determine when she is most likely to conceive. The kit, on the other hand, takes that power away from a woman’s own eyes and mind and provides information from outside of herself that is less accurate, and tells a woman nothing about her overall menstrual health.
As a TCM provider, I can also add the BBT chart to my diagnostic tools for a fertility patient. For instance, a chart that shows a very slow-rising temperature in the luteal (post-ovulation) phase is possibly indicative of a yang or qi deficiency. Yang (which is warm) is needed for the act of ovulation and for the corpus luteum (the follicle from which the egg was released) to provide enough progesterone for conception and implantation to occur. I do not use the BBT as a sole means of diagnosis, but I do add it to my assessment.
Taking the BBT is simple, but there are some key factors to be aware of. Using a regular thermometer, a woman should take her oral (by mouth) temperature first thing upon waking from at least 5 hours of sleep. If the woman gets up, or even spends time awake in bed before taking her temperature, it will not be accurate as our temperatures do rise with activity. To be most accurate the temp should be taken after 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep, so if a woman goes to sleep at midnight, and wakes at 5am to pee, she should take her temp at 5am before getting out of bed, and not wait until she has gone back to sleep and gotten up at 7am. The number can be recorded on a piece of paper kept by the bed and then transferred to a paper BBT chart at a later time.
Even easier for some, online software can be used in which the number is simply recorded into the application, and the software creates the BBT chart based on the data provided. A nice example of this kind of software is Kindara. I prefer this one to others, as it is easy to use, is pleasing to the eye, and it does NOT try and “predict” when a woman is ovulating. Instead, it helps a woman see for herself just by looking at the chart when she is most likely ovulating. This software can be used on a computer, or on an Iphone and can also be shared online with a fertility doctor or TCM fertility specialist (or a partner!) if the woman chooses.
Cervical fluid is possibly an even more important predictor of fertility than temperature. When a woman is about to ovulate, the fluid changes in structure from a mass of crystals aimed in every which way, to straight tubes that provide a sort of “highway” for the sperm to move up through the cervix and into the uterus, hopefully to the uterine tubes where conception is most likely to occur. When the fluid is structurally tube-like, it takes on a stretchy quality that can be easily pulled/stretched between a woman’s fingers. Learning to assess when a woman’s fluid is most stretchy gives her the knowledge that she is now about to ovulate, even before the temperature rises. The 48 hours BEFORE ovulation are the best days to have sex if a woman is trying to conceive. BBT charts, including the software on Kindara, provide a place to indicate what the cervical fluid is like each day of a woman’s cycle.
My patients that have made the switch from the “pee sticks” to BBT charting all have a renewed sense of control over their fertility potential. They are more confident and feel a sense of pride about their bodies. In my experience, this is the BEST possible way to enter pregnancy and allows a woman to feel that she understand her body and later, she is generally more comfortable making decisions for her body, such as how she wants to deliver her baby.
Understanding our fertility is our right as women, and I honestly believe that charting our cycles during our fertile years is empowering.