31 October 2009

Charting Your BBT: Part I

What You Need, the How-Tos, and Other Basics

Your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) is your body's daily, lowest, at-rest temperature each day. Your BBT is lowest while in deep sleep, rising as soon as you wake up. A woman's BBT fluctuates in a pretty set pattern during a normal cycle, and finding this pattern of temperature fluctuation, as well as observing other signs from your body, can help you pinpoint ovulation (the day you release an egg) and maximize your chances of conception each cycle. THIS IS THE POINT OF CHARTING! You want to be able to find a pattern and use this to predict future ovulation dates.

What You Need:

- A BBT thermometer
- A BBT chart

You cannot get any cheaper or any more simple than that! When used correctly, your thermometer and piece of paper may be able to get you pregnant quickly.

You can buy special BBT thermometers that come with a blank chart for duplication. These thermometers read your at-rest, first morning temperture to a hundredth of a degree. Generally, these thermometers are more expensive. If the ownership of something really expensive helps you feel better, than go for it. Otherwise, any digital thermometer that reads at least a tenth of a degree is suitable. (I bought my thermometer at Rite-Aid for $2.99.) Just make sure it reads at least a tenth of a degree and is digital; no old-fashioned mercury thermometers here, folks.

A good BBT chart has a range of temperatures to the tenth (even hundredth) of a degree with boxes to help you record your body's signs as well. Other than your temperature, you want to observe and record the following:

-Cervical mucus (this includes your period flow, as well as whether you or not you are dry, sticky, creamy, or slippery).

-Days of unprotected intercourse.

-Any ovulatory pain, sometimes experienced as cramps or twinges of pain when the egg is released.

-Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPK) results, as well as results for saliva-scopes and fertility monitors, if you use those.

-Any drugs are medications taken, including fertility drugs and prenatal vitamins.

-Any miscellaneous things that could have an impact on your chart, such as a bad night of sleep, illness, travel, etc.

This is one of the best BBT charts available. If this one doesn't suit you or seems to have too much information, simply searching "blank BBT chart" or "printable BBT chart" in Google should bring up what you need. Better to have too much information than too little!

Step One: Day One of Your Cycle

You will not have an accurate chart worth a lick if you pick some arbitrary day to start charting. Wait until the first day of your period, which is Cycle Day 1.

Step Two: Taking Your Temperature

Your BBT needs to be taken first thing in the morning, literally. Keep your thermometer and your chart right next to your bed. The second you wake up, before you even sit up or get out of bed, take your temperature and record it on your chart. A few things to keep in mind:

-Always take your temperature at the same time every morning,

-Always take your temperature before getting out of bed, even sitting up, if that is feasible. As soon as your body's deep sleep is disturbed, your temperature starts to climb. You want your lowest temperature of the day.

-Don't fret if you skip a day or accidentally sleep in. You're looking for an overall pattern and will not be able to establish that if you only look at your chart on a day-to-day basis.

Step Three: Observing and Charting Other Fertility Signs

Along with your termperature, you need to be recording your fertility signs: cervical mucus (amount, consistency, etc.), cervical location (high or low), cervical firmess (firm or soft), and cervical opening (opened or closed), as well as days of intercourse, fertility test results, etc. Charts are pretty self-explanatory, and you may not want to chart every single every day... especially if you are doing a few practice charts before getting serious.

Cervical mucus changes throughout your cycle. In order to accurately check your cervical mucus (as well as location and firmness) you need to be in the sitting or squatting position, and insert one to two fingers and reach until you feel a bump about the size of the tip of your nose (but it may feel soft, like your bottom lip, depending on where you are in your cycle). This is where to most accurate collection of fluid will. Here is how that fluid, or mucus, is described, starting with your period, ending in what it looks and feels like at the time of ovulation:

-Period bleeding (spotting, light, moderate, or heavy flow)

-Period color (pink, red, brown)

-Dry (no wetness in vagina)

-Sticky (white or cloudy in color; doesn't stretch between fingertips; may appear crumbly)

-Creamy (a bit cloudy, milky, like lotion; can stretch a little bit between your finger tips; getting more abundant)

-Egg-white (clear; can be stretched more than an inch between fingertips; abundant; literally resembles egg-whites)

If it seems a bit uncomfortable, or if you can reach high enough to feel your cervix, don't worry. Just reaching as high as you can inside to feel for your mucus is enough. It may be awkward at first, but with practice comes perfection--and ease.

Immediately after your period, your cervix will be low, firm, and closed. When it is low, it will be easier to feel. The firmness should be that of the tip of your nose. And if it closed, you will barely be able to feel the opening at the tip. As your fertility rises until ovulation, your cervix will retreat up into your vagina (getting higher), will soften until it feels like the fleshy part of your bottom lip, and will open up. The more your cervix opens up, the more discharge it allows to come through, which is why you will be open and more abundant in egg-white (or at least creamy) discharge towards ovulation.

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