Getting pregnant and staying pregnant can be extremely challenging when you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). When your periods are irregular and sometimes non existent, ovulation (release of egg from the ovary), which is the first and most important step in conception may not be taking place at all.
Even if you are ovulating, how do you know when that is happening when your periods are all over the place. Ovulation generally happens from day 12-16 of a 28-30 day menstrual cycle. But, for many women with PCOS, they have no idea when their period will come or whether it will come at all that month. Personally, I used to go up to 40-50 days from one period to the next, sometimes, even longer.
I want to share some things which were of great help to me in getting pregnant with unpredictable periods. Please note, that I am not a gynaecologist, I am only writing from personal experience.
Today, I want to talk about basal body temperature charting.
What does body temperature have to do with fertility?
Basically, when you ovulate, your body temperature increases considerably due to the release of the hormone progesterone. So, by making a note of body temperature everyday, you can pinpoint the day that you ovulated.
To get started with temperature charting, purchase a good quality digital thermometer which gives accurate readings up to two decimal points. This is the one that I used. The first temperature you record should be on the first day of your period or menstrual cycle (cycle day 1/ CD1)
For charting to be accurate, you have to be very committed. Keep the thermometer next to you on your bedside table or under your pillow. The first thing you have to do in the morning when you wake up, before getting out of bed or even moving, is to stick that thermometer under your tongue and wait for the beep.
Note the temperature down on your phone or on a piece of paper. Don’t think you will remember it for later, you really won’t.
Now, you can print some blank sample basal body temperature charts and enter your temperature data manually everyday. An easier option is to use website or app versions of sites like FertilityFriend or Kindara. I prefer the website version of fertility friend and the app version of kindara on my smart phone.
Consistent charting will yield a graph which should show you a trend of lower temperatures in the first half (pre ovulation) of your cycle and higher temperatures (post ovulation) in the second half of your cycle, which will eventually drop once your periods start or is about to start.
Something that looks like this :
Here, the body temperature is on the vertical axis (y-axis) and the cycle days are on the horizontal axis (x-axis).
Just below the cycle days (1,2,3 and so on):
CM mentioned is cervical mucus.
M,H,L,L mentioned from days 1 to 4 are medium, heavy, light, light, that is indicative of how heavy or light you periods were.
E on days 17 and 20 stands for Egg-white or fertile cervical mucus, S on days 18,19 etc stands for sticky cervical mucus. * on days 5,6 etc indicates spotting of blood.
BD stands for baby dance (I’m sure you can figure that out) and AM and PM indicate the time.
Under Meds, there are various options for you to enter, M here stands for Metformin.
Once the Fertility Friend site/app detects a few days of consistently high temperature, cross hairs (like a cross) will automatically appear indicating the day of ovulation (here it is day 22), which is the last day of low body temperature.
In this cycle, as you can see, there was no pregnancy and it ended in a period after 34 days.
Pros of BBT (basal body temperature) charting:
- Temperature charting will give you a fair idea about your menstrual cycle. After you chart your temperature for a few months, you will be able to estimate your ovulation day and thus, you can succesfully predict your fertile period to some extent.
The fertile period would be from five days prior to ovulation till the day of ovulation. The egg is viable in the body for only 24 hours, but luckily, sperm survive in the body for 4-5 days.
- If you are doubtful about whether or not you ovulate at all, like I was, temperature charting will give you confidence and assurance that yes, you are ovulating. I was told by doctors that with such long menstrual cycles, it was very unlikely that I was ovulating and I found that, that was wrong. I was ovulating, just very late. Instead of the normal cycle day 14, I was ovulating on cycle day 30-31 some months.
- It is easy, you can do it at home without any medical or other intervention. The only expense is the thermometer, which you can just consider a good investment.
- If your chart shows you have not ovulated, you know you need to keep trying to conceive.
Cons of BBT (basal body temperature) charting
- Temperature charting doesn’t help you to predict ovulation for your current menstrual cycle 100%. You will know you ovulated only after it has already taken place, by seeing an increase in your body temperature. The last day of low temperature is your ovulation day.
- It can be tiresome to take your temperature day after day and see nothing much happening on your chart. It does require patience, persistence and faith.
- Sometimes you may think you have ovulated, just to see that your temperature doesn’t stay consistently high. In order to confidently say you have ovulated, temperature should stay high for at least 3-4 days.
- If you don’t have periods at all, it can be disappointing to chart. Some women can get periods without ovulation too. Even healthy women can have a few anovulatory cycles every year.
Personally, temperature charting was of immense help to me out of all the methods I read about. It helped me to know that I do ovulate despite my very long cycles. On the menstrual cycle that I got pregnant, I almost knew for sure that I had conceived even before I got a positive pregnancy test because my body temperature continued to stay high long after my periods were due.
Temperature charting is such a wonderful tool to learn more about our body, you will find yourself correlating many body signs with ovulation or with periods approaching. If it sounds cumbersome to you, please just give it a try, you may find you like the science behind it.
Get into the habit of charting, and who knows, your body may surprise you some day. It is really quite exciting when you see that temperature shift, and who knows, maybe that little temperature shift is a little baby on the way 🙂