Monitoring your fertility signs (cervical position, cervical mucous and basal body temperature) are the basis of the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). FAM is an all-natural, holistic way to get in-touch with the natural rhythms of your body.
I started charting when I was 25 years old. Over the years I have waxed and waned with how closely I monitor my cervix and fluids, but I track my basal body temperature (BBT) every day.* It is a simple way to get into the habit of checking-in with your reproductive body.
FAM is often touted as the best strategy for those who are trying to achieve pregnancy because it can help you pinpoint exactly when in your cycle you ovulate, but there are a ton of other reasons I believe you should be charting your temp (even if you are not trying to get pregnant), here are just a few:
It can tell you if/when you ovulate
After a few months of tracking your temp you can begin to predict when you will ovulate next. In a nutshell, the first few weeks of your cycle you will notice your BBT is low. After your ovary releases an egg your temperature will rise about half a degree and remain elevated until your period. This is known as the ‘temperature shift’ and is a clear sign of ovulation.
On the contrary, if you do not ovulate you will not have a temp shift. If you notice several cycles in a row without a notable shift it could be a sign of an underlying health condition. In that case, it is recommended to see your midwife or ob/gyn to discuss the issue.
It can warn you when your period is due
Your luteal phase lasts precisely two weeks (the phase after you ovulate – which was confirmed by your sustained temperature spike). During this phase the hormone progesterone is dominant but as your body approaches menstruation your estrogen begins to rise once again. This will cause your temperature to dip back to its pre-ovulatory level. This temperature drop will kick-start the shedding of your endometrial layer. Most people have a day or two after their temp drop before their period starts.
It can alert you to multiple hormonal shifts
I have consistently irregular cycles due to polycystic ovaries and I don’t always release an egg. Some months my body tries really hard, yet fails to ovulate (noted as wild swings in my temperature). This can lead to extremely long cycles (sometimes the upward of 70 days). However, by tracking my temperature I know exactly what kind of cycle I am in for. It also helps remind me to be extra gentle with my body.
It can help you identify problems
Low progesterone, high estrogen, anovulation and low thyroid are the most commonly identifiable health issues you can discern from your BBT chart:
- Low progesterone causes a short luteal phase (cycles less than 22 days long)
- High estrogen can lead to long/irregular cycles
- Anovulation is signified by lack of temperature shift
- Low thyroid can be signified by low basal body temperatures that occur with or without a ovulatory temperature shift – a low temperature would be a consistent temperature below 96.8 degrees fahrenheit
When you are able to identify patterns in your cycle by reading your charts you become an informed consumer. My charts helped me identify my anovulation and I was able to go to the doctor, charts-in-hand, to discuss the issue and treatment options. You essentially become your own health advocate and it is an incredibly empowering place to be.
It can save you money
FAM is often used as birth control by women who want to utilize a natural, non-invasive method. Best of all? It’s free (well, OK, you do have to buy a basal body thermometer for $8). Using FAM as birth control can save you thousands of dollars over the course of your reproductive life.**
Ever had a pregnancy scare? Well, temping can help you identify whether you are having an ‘off’ cycle or if you are actually pregnant. Simply pull out your charts and look for that temperature shift.
If you did not have a temperature shift then you did not ovulate and are just having an irregular cycle. If you did have a temperature shift and have experienced 18 or more days of consistently high temperatures there is a 99.9% chance pregnancy occurred. And you won’t have to pee on anything.
It helps you become more in-tune with your body
In our overly-medicated world we are putting more and more young girls on the pill. While yes, I believe in reproductive choice, I also believe in allowing young girls time to learn about, understand and experience the natural rhythms of their reproductive bodies.
When we medicate our cycles we essentially numb that intimate part of ourselves and relinquish any accountability for it. Charting your natural cycle can help you become more in touch with your individual body, help you take ownership of your health, and connect you to yourself and the universe around you in a fulfilling, satisfying and uniquely-feminine way.
If you are interested in learning more on the Fertility Awareness Method here are two favorite resources:
If you are interested in charting your cycles these great (and free) apps can help:
Here are recommendations for basal body thermometers:
Daysy Fertility Calculator
Easy@Home Digital Basal Thermometer Model EBT-201
Starlight & Sunny Basal Thermometer
iProven Basal Body Thermometer
YONO Wearable Basal Thermometer
Optimus Petit Sophia Fertility Monitor
*Your basal body temperature (BBT) is your resting temperature. It is taken at the same time every morning after a minimum of three consistent hours of sleep. Your BBT must be measured before you get out of bed, have a sip of water or even speak. Your BBT can be taken orally or vaginally.
**FAM is a nuanced approach to reproductive health and takes time to perfect, so if you plan to use it as a birth control method it is highly advised to speak with a FAM educator or your healthcare provider.