Tracking Your Cycles with BBT Charting
If you have come into the clinic for assistance with fertility or period problems, chances are that we have asked you to start tracking your cycle using a method called Basal Body Temperature (BBT) charting. BBT charting is an incredibly simple and useful tool in helping you (and us!) gain greater insight into the timing and quality of your menstrual cycle. The shifting of your hormones throughout your cycle is reflected in small changes in your body temperature, and BBT charting helps us to really see what is going on and what could be contributing to your health issues.
Why track your cycle?
Whether or not you are trying to conceive, a healthy menstrual cycle is a sign of a healthy body. For a smooth and healthy period, your body needs to be producing the right levels of the right hormones at the right times – not always an easy task in our chemical-filled, stressed out lives.
As naturopath and author Dr Lara Briden puts it, your periods are like your monthly report card. If you get a particularly bad period, you can ask yourself questions such as “did I look after myself well enough this month, or did I overwork?”
BBT charting is a way to track your cycle daily, and can be wonderful feedback as to how your body is doing. Are your temps really low? Maybe you’re doing too much and exhausting yourself. Are your temps really erratic? Maybe you’re actually more stressed out (at a body level) than you realise. As a personal example, I find that if I neglect to eat enough (due to having a busy day, or working a late shift in the clinic) my temperature plummets the next day – and so I know this is something I need to correct in order to support my body better on my busy days.
So what exactly IS BBT charting?
Getting started with BBT charting simply involves an oral thermometer (we recommend using one with two decimal places – the single decimal place thermometers aren’t accurate enough) and a graph or app to track it on (we recommend this one). Make sure to keep your thermometer handy by your bed – on top of your alarm is a perfect place.
You can also use a more sophisticated tool such as the Temp Drop – it depends what price point you are wanting to stick to.
How to BBT chart
- Take your temperature as soon as you wake up in the morning – before getting up to go to the bathroom and before even reaching over for a glass of water. Taking it orally (just under the tongue) is sufficient. Your temperature does not need to be taken at exactly the same time every day, but it does need to be taken after a solid sleep of at least 3-4 hours. If you’re likely to wake early in the morning and be restless until you rise, make sure you take your temperature at the initial wake-up time to get the most accurate reading.
- Record your temperature in the app or on the physical chart.
- Repeat every day of your cycle – make sure to include in your chart your menstrual bleeds, and you can choose to include things such as cervical mucus and other symptoms if you would like to (which can be helpful when you’re working with a practitioner, as we may be able to pinpoint whether or not you and your partner are trying to conceive at the right time, or we can see patterns of times in your cycle when your symptoms are aggravated).
How to interpret your chart
This is where a practitioner or menstrual health coach comes in. Interpreting your chart by yourself can be very confusing and daunting if it doesn’t look like the examples you see on Google (and, of course, most people DON’T have a perfect google-worthy chart!). Luckily, there are plenty of resources available nowadays to help you – I highly recommend this book to my patients as a wonderful deep-dive into charting and the various patterns that you might see in yours: The Fifth Vital Sign.
Charting is something I find incredibly helpful and empowering for women of all walks of life to get more in touch with their hormonal and energetic ebbs and flows throughout the month (see my last blog post about the menstrual cycle ‘seasons’ to learn more about that). If you have any queries about charting please get in touch – I’d be more than happy to help you decode yours.
Until next time,
Dr Grace Jones
About the Author:
Dr. Grace Jones (BHSc.Acu) is the founder at Bloom Chinese Medicine. She is a passionate and nationally qualified and registered acupuncturist, with special interests in women’s health, natural fertility, pregnancy, digestive health and emotional wellness. Learn more about Grace here.
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Bloom Chinese Medicine is an integrative Chinese medicine and acupuncture clinic committed to providing the best outcomes for our patients, and empowering them along their journey to optimal fertility and wellness. Centrally located in Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast, we have visitors from local suburbs and all over Queensland.
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