Why Consider Temperature Charting?
I know it sounds old fashioned but Temperature Charting is actually a very valuable tool to help us understand our own individual monthly cycles (yes ladies, we are unique and individual and not all our cycles are a classic 28 days).
Not only does recording help us work out our most fertile days but it essentially is a really informative ‘well-being’ source that enlightens us as to what our cycle is up to in relation to the monthly discomforts or hormonal symptoms that affect or hound many of us.
Understanding how ‘your’ monthly cycle behaves can help you understand your health and well-being better! Of course, if you are lucky enough to have a perfect 28 day cycle with no fluctuations or discomforts then this blog is not for you but, for the rest of us, it is a good idea to get to grips with our bodies before reaching for the paracetamol or heading off to the Chemist or GP. So here is my guide to Well-being Cycle Charting which incorporates anything from the early days of menstruation to the latter days of peri-menopause – knock yourselves out ladies….
So, what can you learn from charting?
- You can gauge what your cycle is up to and predict your ovulation and fertile window (e.g. essential for fertility)
- How your cycle behaves – get knowledgeable, upfront and personal with it!
- Understand your own hormonal fluctuation (I’m thinking mood swings, cravings and the like)
- Predict your most fertile days – good to know for the movers and shakers!
- See what happens throughout your whole menstrual cycle – do you actually know?
- Understand your cervical fluid – you know you’d love too.
- Look for patterns in your cycle, understand irregularity for starters.
- Know what your Progesterone & Luteal Phase are up too – are you Progesterone Deficient, or a Luteal Phase Defect? This could be very important for your all round health as well as for fertility.
- Identifies anomalies.
- Measure the improvements and benefits from lifestyle changes and from holistic therapies such as Reflexology and Fertility Massage
- Decide if there is a need to investigate your well-being further (i.e. tests)
- Learn how our body works, especially if you are new to cycling!
What do you need to chart successfully?
A Digital Thermometer – ideally one that reads to two digital places but if you already have one that works to one place, that will be fine.
A method of recording your temperature i.e. a chart as visual is best (you can record on a printed chart, see http://natural-fertility-info.com/guide-to-fertility-charting.html they have free charts to print off and great charting guides too). Or you can enter the information into an website/app such as www.fertilityfriend.com. The basic chart/app is free and is very comprehensive for a first timer, you can then upgrade for the more robust version should you wish at a later date. This site is really comprehensive and their charts are great and, ultimately, bespoke to you.
There are many products and Apps available now to help you record your temperature and monitor your cycle. Some of the Apps are free. However the more complex products vary in price and ease of use (see a few suggestions at the end of this post).
Here I explain how to take your temperature and chart manually but the Products mentioned below may advise slightly differently.
If you are charting for fertility reasons then you may also wish to use OPK tests – Ovulation Predictor Tests – which detect LH (Luteinising Hormone) surges in urine right before ovulation. You can then enter this information into your chart to verify your temperature information too. This is why temperature charting is so good, because it gives you personal and unique information. If you then add other external information you really begin to work out exactly how your hormonal body is performing. Other apps do not do this, they simply work on a formula, which is a helpful guide but does not show you how your own cycle is ‘actually’ behaving.
How to chart
You can start at any time of your cycle but a full chart starts on the first day of your bleed.
You need to take your temperature, orally, at the same time each morning, and every morning thereafter. This needs to be done before you speak, move, get up, or have a drink. If you are on shift work – take your temperature when you wake. For the reading to be most accurate, you need to have had a least 3 hours sleep.
Record your temperature on a paper chart, into an App or internet site as mentioned above. Continue to chart for the rest of your cycle. Record any other symptoms that may affect your temperature (see list below).
Record symptoms that occur during the cycle, such as:
- How you feel – if you have bouts of feeling emotional, angry, frustrated, irritated etc
- Breast Tenderness
- Menstrual flow, colour, number of days, discomfort, clotting
- Headaches, migraines
- Bowel changes
- Sugar Cravings
- Changes in energy or libido
- Ovulation pain or cramp – which side
- Cervical Mucous changes – Watery, sticky, creamy
- Backache, achy legs or restless legs
- Lack of co-ordination – dropping things?!
- Skin breakouts/flare-ups
Look for signs of ovulation. In temperature terms, ovulation should look like an increase of approximately 3 tenths, e.g. from 36.5 C to 36.8 C, your temperature should then remain around 36.8 for the remainder of the cycle to indicate good progesterone levels – they may fluctuate a little but they should remain high. Your temperature will fall when progesterone levels decrease if there is no pregnancy.
What can affect your temperature reading?
The following may affect your cycle so be aware and note any that you might experience:
- Fever or infection
- Taking drugs (including recreational) & medications
- Taking Supplements & Herbal Remedies
- Alcohol consumption
- Stress – both emotional and physical
- Deprived or very disturbed sleep
- Travel – The effect of jet lag and time zone differences
- Surroundings such as room temperature/hot water bottle/hot blanket
- Recently discontinued hormonal contraceptive i.e. Pill, Injection, Implant etc or hormonal based patches.
What does charting tell you?
Once you have finished the cycle (day one of bleed denotes a new cycle) you can review the information the chart supplies as follows:
- How long was your cycle – between 26 – 33 days or shorter/longer?
- What day did you ovulate (roughly midway or shorter/longer?).
- Did you see a spike/increase in your temperature indicating ovulation?
- How long was your fertile window? (i.e. number of days pre ovulation when you are ‘fertile’)
- Looking for patterns – Did your recorded symptoms occur mainly around ovulation or pre-bleed or both?
- How long was your Luteal Phase i.e. Number of days post ovulation? Was this between 11 – 16 or shorter? (Less than 11 days suggests a deficient Luteal Phase)
- Did your temperature remain high post ovulation or did it fluctuate and/or drop (fluctuation/drop suggests progesterone deficiency which can impact on fertility/miscarriage etc).
Once you have got into the swing of charting, continue for 3 full cycles to gain a good understanding of how your cycle behaves. When you have the results, you may decide to make changes to your diet or lifestyle to improve your health and well-being or you may feel that the information has highlighted a potential problem, such as low progesterone, and seek medical advice. If you are charting for fertility, then you will be easily able to identify your ‘fertile’ window for future cycles.
If you feel that you are experiencing imbalances in your cycle then you may wish to consider treatments such as Reflexology to help rebalance hormonally or Fertility or Abdominal-Sacral Massage to help reduce tension and stress that may be held abdominally and increase blood flow to your reproductive organs.
You can also chart to determine peri-menopause and the changes that occur in the run up to menopause and, according to The Billings Ovulation Method, you can also chart as a method of contraception too.
Alison is a Reflexologist and Hypnotherapist based in Weybridge and Epsom, Surrey. She specialises in treating to support Fertility, Pregnancy, Miscarriage, Menopause and all things hormonal. She is a Member of the Association of Reproductive Reflexologists, General Hypnotherapy Register and is an Easibirthing Fertility & Hypnobirthing Practitioner. Contact her now to make an appointment for a Consultation.