how to take basal body temperature readings in women

If you’re trying to get pregnant, knowing when you ovulate improves your chances. Some women can tell when they do so by observing changes in cervical mucus or simply by noting other changes. However, as your chances of conceiving improve prior to ovulation, pinpointing the best time makes sense — especially if you and your partner have sex infrequently. What should women know about how to take basal body temperature readings?

Women need to follow certain steps to ensure the most accurate data. Here is the science behind taking basal body temperature readings and how to do so properly.

What Is Basal Body Temperature and Why Is It Important?

Most of us think of a normal temperature as 98.6 degrees with little variation. However, your temperature naturally varies with the time of day — and the time of the month.

Your basal body temperature refers to the temp your body maintains when fully at rest. When you ovulate, levels of progesterone rise in your body. When this occurs, your temperature increases slightly, by about four-tenths of a percent.

Because the best time to have sex is immediately before ovulation, you’ll need to track your basal body temperature across several months. You can do this with the aid of a chart you can print for free online or pick up at your gynecologist’s office. Once you know the exact day to get nasty — sperm can live in the body for up to five days, but your best chances of conception come soon after ejaculation — you can plan your romantic rendezvous.

You can use basal body temperature readings on their own, or you can combine the practice with others, such as tracking your cervical mucus. The method proves especially useful for women who exhibit few other signs of ovulation. For example, women who typically experience very light periods may have difficulty tracking other symptoms, as their mucus may not change significantly.

How to Take Basal Body Temperature Readings

Once you’ve determined you want to give this type of fertility tracking a go, your next question no doubt is how to take basal body temperature readings. Doing so proves relatively easy. Follow these steps:

  • Prepare the night before. If you plan to use a mercury thermometer, shake it out the night before. Doing this in the morning can skew results. Regardless of which type of thermometer you choose, set it on your nightstand where you can reach it without moving much.
  • Abstain from smoking and alcohol. Not only are nicotine and alcohol harmful to the embryo should you conceive, but also consuming either substance can alter your resting temperature.
  • Set your alarm for the same time daily. Yes, this means even on the weekends. You can always roll over and go back to sleep — or enjoy another activity, wink, wink — after you take your temp.
  • Get a good night’s rest. If you wake up frequently during the night, this will impact your reading. Still, take your temperature as planned, and note in your chart that you had a rough night.

What If You Don’t Get Pregnant?

If you’ve known how to take basal body temperature readings and have done so for three to six months without conceiving, it’s time to give your gynecologist a call. You may suffer from an underlying health condition that impacts your ability to get pregnant.

If you regularly experience heavier-than-normal periods requiring you to go through more than one standard box of pads or tampons monthly, you may suffer from uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids consist of growths that can impact the ability of the fertilized egg to implant properly. They occur more often in women who are overweight or obese.

Another condition impacting fertility is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). In women with PCOS, the follicles form multiple cysts, but the ovary does not always release the egg. If you notice symptoms such as hair growing on your face or thinning on the top of your head, you may suffer from this condition. Other symptoms include anxiety, depression and stubborn weight gain.

Other Ways to Improve Fertility

If you visit the gynecologist and she finds no underlying disorder, you can take additional measures to boost your chances of conceiving. For example, certain yoga poses — such as the cat — increase blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, making conception more likely.

Certain herbs can increase your fertility chances too. Raspberry leaf tea works well in this regard, as does ordinary cinnamon. Cinnamon has long enjoyed use in Chinese medicine to strengthen yang energy. Recent studies indicate the herb may help women struggling to conceive due to PCOS or metabolic syndrome, as it helps balance blood sugar levels.

Finally, managing stress can help you conceive faster. Many women report coming home from vacation only to discover they have a baby on board. Chronic stress raises cortisol levels, which may affect estrogen and progesterone levels negatively.

Using Your Basal Body Temperature to Get Pregnant

Once you know how to take basal body temperature readings, you have a powerful new tool in your arsenal as you try to conceive. With careful tracking, you’ll hopefully see the plus sign on your home pregnancy test soon.

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