The basal body temperature method (or simply the temperature method) is a popular natural family planning approach for predicting ovulation days. This method can be a great addition to your fertility tracking and can provide you with a better understanding of your ovulation cycle. But what exactly is the basal body temperature method? How to use it? And how reliable is it?
What is basal body temperature?
Basal body temperature (BBT) is the lowest body temperature of a healthy individual recorded after a period of rest. BBT is measured using a thermometer, usually in the morning after waking up and before getting out of bed or doing any activity. BBT changes slightly during the menstrual cycle. By tracking these changes, women can predict ovulation. In other words, BBT helps women identify the most fertile days of the cycle. The BBT of a healthy person ranges from 96.0 to 99.0 degrees Fahrenheit (35.5 to 37.2 degrees Celsius).
Uses of the BBT method
Daily tracking of BBT can help identify the fertile days in a woman’s cycle. BBT decreases right before the ovary releases an egg, and then increases very slightly—by 0.5 to 1 degree Fahrenheit (about 0.3 degree Celsius) after ovulation.
After tracking ovulation for a few months, you’ll be able to predict when ovulation will occur and plan sexual encounters accordingly.
In general, women are most fertile 2-3 days before ovulation, so:
- If you’re trying to get pregnant, the best time to have unprotected sex is on the two days preceding the temperature rise.
- If you are trying to avoid pregnancy, sex should be off-limits (or a barrier contraception method be used) from the start of your menstrual cycle until 48 hours after the temperature rise.
The basal body temperature method can also be used to detect pregnancy. Following ovulation, if basal body temperature doesn’t go back to normal, pregnancy is expected.
Taking and charting body basal temperature
Taking and charting BBT demands patience and consistency. To take basal body temperature, you will need to:
- Select the appropriate thermometer
A digital thermometer, a standard glass thermometer, or a special thermometer made to monitor basal body temperature can all be used for this.
Some basal thermometers are compatible with ovulation monitoring apps. Some come with kits that provide the tools you need to record and measure your BBT. Additionally, some technologies may be worn on the wrist, ears, and underarms to take temperatures every 24 hours.
Take your temperature consistently each day using the same thermometer and method.
- Take your BBT, at the same time every day
To achieve an accurate reading, take your temperature at roughly the same time every morning (within 30 minutes). Take the reading as soon as you wake up, before you get out of bed, drink, eat, take a shower, or even speak. This is because a rise in body temperature can result from any activity. Additionally, it’s crucial to have at least three, but ideally five, uninterrupted hours of sleep before taking BBT.
- Make a chart of your daily BBT readings
To make a chart, daily BBT readings must be recorded for a few months. This is crucial since you’ll need to recognize trends in your body’s fluctuation in temperature to identify when you might be most fertile. You can record your BBT readings on paper or use an app designed for this purpose.
Is the BBT method reliable?
The BBT method can be of great benefit when used correctly and precisely. However, some women might not find it helpful. The downsides of the BBT method include:
- BBT can be affected by insufficient or interrupted sleep, fatigue or illness, emotional turbulence, smoking, and drinking alcohol.
- It can take several cycles before you can see a distinct monthly pattern. The first month of readings is not particularly useful.
- Ovulation might happen at different periods in your cycle from one month to the next. This will affect the accuracy of your predictions.
- Many women do not ovulate regularly, which can also make tracking challenging.
- Your ovulation patterns may change, for instance, if you recently stopped using birth control, had a contraceptive device removed, or if you suffered from a medical condition like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
- If you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, you can’t rely solely on BBT charts. You should add another contraception strategy.
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