***Warning: If you are a male reader or a don’t care about the nitty gritty girly details reader, you may want to skip this pots.***
I have mentioned a few times about some natural tools to track your monthly cycle. Since coming off the pill about 3 years ago, I have become a big advocate of not using hormones in our bodies. I think contraceptives that use hormones will often mask our body’s inner workings and hide problems that may be occurring. I believe it is best for us to be knowledgeable about our bodies and how they function. And this information becomes very useful if you ever have to take a closer look at your fertility, hormone levels, or any other related health factors.
I understand that we all have to choose the method that works best for us. But I also stand by the fact that knowledge is power and hope to share some information you may not be aware of otherwise. This method of naturally tracking cycles is called Basal Body Temperature (aka BBT) charting. There are many online charting tools you can use, that will help determine the various phases of your cycle. My favorite is called Fertility Friend. And although the site is geared towards trying to conceive, this method could still be effective at preventing pregnancy when you time intercourse and use other non-hormonal contraceptives during particular phases of your cycle.
Now, how does it work? The charting itself is pretty simple. You simply take your temperature (a digital thermometer with a reading to the 100th degree is best) first thing in the morning upon waking. It is best to get the temperature at around the same time each morning, before rising, and after a solid few hours of sleep. [Source]
You then input the information into a graph type chart each day, either online or manually. After an entire cycle your chart will look something like this.
If you notice, there are two distinct parts of the cycle. Within these two distinguished sections there are four important things to consider. The start of your cycle is your menstruation. You are generally not fertile during this time. During this time, your body secretes a hormone called GnRH that signals your body to secrete the hormones to stimulate follicular development in your ovaries.
After menstruation, your body enters the Follicular Phase in which you release more estrogen to begin thickening your lining and preparing your body for a possible pregnancy. In simple language, this is when your body prepares to release an egg. The estrogen levels cause your BBT to be lower. These lower temperatures help distinguish this phase of your cycle and when ovulation occurs.
Ovulation will approach when there is a surge of estrogen that causes the production of Luteinizing Hormone, the hormone that causes the release of the egg. After the egg is released, estrogen levels drop dramatically and progesterone begins to dominate. With the decrease in estrogen and rise in progesterone, your BBT also shifts accordingly. Your temperatures will rise at this point.
You can determine ovulation using temperature charting by distinguishing a distinct and sustained shift to higher temperatures. For example, in the Follicular Phase your temperatures may consistently be around 97.5, but after ovulation your temperature would be above 98. Even though it seems small, you should be able to recognize a clear difference in temperature levels over the course of your cycle. And ovulation can be pinpointed as the day before you see the temperature rise.
After ovulation your body is in the Luteal Phase. This lasts for an average of 12-16 days until your next menstruation. It is the waiting period for a possibly fertilized egg to implant and begin growing. If you conceived your temperatures would stay higher, otherwise you would see a drop that signifies progesterone levels decreasing and the start of your next cycle.
I know it sounds like a lot. But it is really useful and interesting to see. You will begin to notice that your body will ovulate around the same time every month, if not the same day each month. Really knowing your body and how it works can provide enough information to fit your current needs and wishes, without having anything affect your hormones. I plan to always use this method until the hubs gets the snip snip. I know this may not be for everyone, but I can certainly recommend it from my own experience.