For She.

A blog for women.

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Homeopathy Update

So I wanted to write an update about how my Homeopathic remedies are working out. It’s been a while!

A little background for anyone who is new

I started seeing a Homeopath after I stopped taking the birth control pill in October 2012. The periods I had before I started the pill were absolutely awful: debilitating cramping, nausea, vomiting, very heavy bleeding (for first 3 days), diarrhea, and extreme fatigue, to name a few. I was very worried that these symptoms would return once my body started having a natural period again.

Homeopathic Remedies

I started out taking Carcinosin 50 M once a week. I continue this for about 2 months. It helped a lot in terms of lessening other symptoms I was having: extreme mood swings, very restless sleep, always extremely thirsty. It also seemed to help with my menstrual cramping, although it was still fairly unpleasant. 

During my period, I take Sepia 20C (2 pills at a time) every 3 hours if I have cramps. When I got my period in February, my cramps came back full-force and the Sepia didn’t seem to do a darn thing to help. I panicked a little because I really didn’t want this to become the norm like it was when I was in my teens. 

At my last visit with my homeopath, we stopped the Carcinosin and switched to Calcarea Carbonica. I think I have both 10M and 1M. I started this remedy only about a week ago, and I just started my period yesterday, and the results are already amazing! 

Just a little side story: I have 2 sisters, both of whom have always had period “issues” very similar to mine. I recently talked my younger sister into stopping the pill and taking a stab and alternative ways to stop the awful cramping. We joked yesterday because when I started my period, I didn’t even notice! I never thought I would EVER say that!

I have had the teeniest bit of cramping today, but it has been oh-so manageable. No aspirin, no pamprin, no NOTHING! I’m so happy to say. 

Other supplements

Aside from the remedies, I’ve also been taking a few supplements to help balance my hormones and get my body back in a normal “routine.”

So here’s my daily list:

Evening Primrose Oil tablets (1 capsule once a day) - EPO helps to balance hormones helps with cramping due to the Gamma Linolenic Acid it contains. Uterine contractions occur in response to prostaglandin levels produced when the uterine lining starts to break down, and GLA helps reduce these levels.

B-vitamin Complex  (1 capsule once a day) - B-6 has been shown to help relax uterine muscles, which helps relieve cramping. Niacin (B-3) “flushes” the body of toxins. The birth control pill can cause B-vitamin deficiencies which can lead to depression and anxiety, so it’s a good one to take every day!

Plain old multi-vitamin (1 a day, as recommended on bottle) - this is really just for good measure. 

Vitamin C (1000 mg daily) - keep those colds away!

Vitamin E (200 IU daily) - helps prevent the synthesis of prostaglandins, which lessens menstrual cramps.

Homeopathy + Supplements = SUCCESS!

I am so incredibly pleased with the results I’ve had from taking all of these supplements and homeopathic remedies. I’m glad I decided to experiment a bit with supplements I was taking to find a combination that really seems to work. When people hear that I use “alternative medicine” they think I’m weird, or a total hippie. And to them I say: go right ahead and think that! I’m a weird hippie with NO cramps and I’m proud to say it!

Happy Menstruating!

Filed under menstruation homeopathy birth control birth control pill alternative medicine period women supplements vitamins

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Fertility Forecast’s IndieGoGo Campagin - help us do awesome things!

Hey er’body. Sorry it’s been such a while since I’ve posted. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been hard at work building a website to help women practice the symptothermal method of FAM. 

Visit Fertility Forecast here.

Go-Go to IndieGoGo

We have recently launched an IndieGoGo campaign because we just can’t continue building Fertility Forecast at the pace we’d like to because frankly, we don’t have the funding. 

We’d love your support in our efforts to change the lives of millions of women by offering them natural, effective birth control and conception assistance alternatives.

Visit our campaign. 

Thanks and happy menstruating!

Filed under symptothermal method fam Natural Birth Control pregnancy indiegogo Fertility fertility forecast fertility charting

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Fertility Forecast: forecast that fertility, girl.

So let’s just dive right in, shall we?

Existing fertility charting websites kind of stink

I can’t remember if I mentioned this in a previous post—and frankly I’m too lazy to go back and check—but as I’ve been using the symptothermal method to chart my bbt and cervical fertility changes, I have been wholly disappointed with the charting websites that currently exist. Many are out-dated, looking like they were built in the ’90s  and haven’t been updated since. Some are incredibly buggy and give me an error every time I try to sign in. Others are okay, but lack a lot of features that I think are important. And then there are one or two that have a decent design and have features that, in theory, are good, but execution of the product falls short…the features are completely confusing and unintuitive, and I find myself frustrated before I even enter any data. WHY ARE THERE NO GOOD SITES FOR THESE THINGS?!? C’mon, folks.

And so, FertilityForecast was born.

So…I’m an engineer. Some might say that I like making things. I’m also a woman who desperately wants a great website to chart my cycles. Some might say that I’ve thought about a thing or two that would greatly improve current sites. My lovely boyfriend is a software developer/web designer. Some might say that he’s pretty excellent at creating websites (he totally is). He’s also extremely supportive of me…so some might say that he also has an interest in fertility charting (sad and true: he probably knows more about it than most women).

The point here is, ladies, that I found a problem that needs fixing…so I decided to fix it. My boyfriend and I have been building an amazing website for fertility charting. We want women to have a wonderful experience charting their fertility signs; we want the software to be so simple and easy to use that you could do it with your eyes closed; we want to teach women how easy it is to tell when they’re fertile; we want to give women a place to go and confide in others; we want to give women somewhere they can chart cycles AND buy that awesome fertility-related product they’ve been thinking about buying; and most important of all, we want to show women how powerful their bodies can be. 

We are hard at work getting it finished, and for now you can sign up to receive email updates about our progress and find out as soon as it’s ready to use. Take a look! Don’t like it? Leave a note here or email hi@fertilityforecast.com and tell me why! Love it and have ideas about what features we should add? Let us know! Fertility Forecast will improve with every comment we get…and we want to make it as amazing as possible!

Visit us here, at FertilityForecast.com

Happy Menstruating!

Filed under FAM bbt pregnancy Conception Contraception Natural Birth Control NFP symptothermal method birth control fertility forecast fertility charting fertility awareness menstruation

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Myth Busters, FAM style

It seems I haven’t posted in a few weeks, so first of all, happy new year! How many of us have already broken our resolutions? I can’t say that I have because I didn’t take the time to make one this year. It seems silly to resolve to make a change in yourself at the start of a new year…why not resolve to make a positive change every day? If you think of something you want to change, what better day to start than today?

Anyways, let’s get on to the good stuff. 

Bustin’ some Myths

I’d like to take some time to bust a few myths about both the symptothermal method and the female body in general. There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about the method, and the medical and pharmaceutical industries certainly don’t do anything to help resolve them. But I urge you not to take my word for it…why should you? Doing the research for yourself will be much more fulfilling. Learn about the amazing things the female body can do and the ways we can harness that power and benefit from it—specifically, as a form of conception and contraception. 

To read my previous posts about what the symptothermal method is, go here or here. The factoids below will make much more sense after reading those!

Myth - A “normal” menstrual cycle is 28 days in length.

Busted - Less than 20% of women have a 28-day cycle.

_____________________

Myth - The symptothermal method is the same as the “Calendar” method, or “Rhythm” method.

Busted - The Calendar, or Rhythm, method only takes into account the average length of a woman’s cycle to help determine when ovulation occurs. Since ovulation can be delayed by things like stress, illness, or exercise, this method is not very accurate. The symptothermal method uses indicators such as basal body temperature, cervical fluid, and cervical position to accurately determine the timing of ovulation.

_____________________

Myth - Ovulation is most likely to occur on day 14 of your cycle.

Busted - The timing of ovulation varies from woman to woman, and even from month to month in each woman. Like I said, ovulation can be delayed by many factors, so counting on day 14 is not a very useful method. Especially since not many women have a 28-day cycle.

_____________________

Myth - Using the symptothermal method as a form of contraception is not effective.

Busted - When instructed on the symptothermal method, 90% of women could accurately determine their body’s fertility signs. Depending on which study you read, when used as contraception, this method is up to 99.4% effective. It does take diligence and discipline…it is not for the weak!

_____________________

Myth - Women with “irregular” cycles cannot use the symptothermal method effectively.

Busted - Since the symptothermal method takes multiple fertility signs into account, it is possible for women with irregular cycles to accurately determine the timing of ovulation. Changes in cervical fluid occur several days before ovulation—regardless of cycle regularity—so it is easy for any woman to predict. This is not possible using the Calendar, or Rhythm, method.

_____________________

Myth - The symptothermal method takes too much work to practice.

Busted - Taking your basal body temperatures takes about a minute when you first wake up in the morning. Checking cervical fluid is as easy as wiping when you use the restroom. Easy peasy!

_____________________

Myth - A woman can get pregnant on any day of her cycle.

Busted - The ovum (egg) only has a life span of about 24 hours. Since sperm can survive 4-5 days in the proper vaginal environment (“proper” meaning in the presence of fertile cervical fluid that is present the few days before ovulation), it is only possible for a woman to get pregnant about 6 days of her cycle. Sadly, many women don’t know this. 

_____________________

Myth - Using a natural method like the symptothermal method takes the spontaneity out of sex. 

Busted - Since a woman will know when she is fertile, a back-up method of contraception such as a condom can always be used during her fertile time. Just be aware that back-up methods can fail. 

_____________________

Hopefully these little factoids have been helpful and enlightening! 

Happy Menstruating!

Filed under FAM myths hbcp oral contraceptives natural birth control fertility awareness fertility charting symptothermal method pregnancy conception contraception

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Female Hormones: what do they do?

So I started my 2nd post-hormonal birth control pill (hbcp) period today (yay!). Even though my chart looks totally ridiculous this month, it seems as though it is starting to shed some light on my cycle (if you can even call it a “cycle” yet).

Your temperature is supposed to remain high—above the coverline—during the luteal phase (the 12-14 days post-ovulation and pre-menstruation). Since about a week of my luteal phase occurred while I had the flu, I have a nice big gap in my temperature readings. But despite the gap in my chart and my crazy temperature fluctuations, my chart still displayed the drop in temperature that is typical right before menstruation begins. My temperature dropped yesterday, so I was confused as to why I hadn’t started my period (and therefore figured that my temperature was simply doing more crazy things). But when I started my period today, I realized the drop in temperature yesterday, and the low temperature again today, was signaling menstruation.

For a better explanation of what your hormones do, let’s look at the diagram below. 

Hormone diagram

Based on this diagram, we can see that increasing estrogen levels, shown by the grey line, correspond with follicle development during the cycle. The luteinizing hormone (LH), shown by the pink line, released by the pituitary gland triggers the ovaries to produce estrogen, which matures the follicle that will release the ovum. This estrogen surge is also responsible for the changes that occur in the cervical fluid and cervical position just before ovulation. The follicular-stimulating hormone (FSH), shown by the bright blue line, signals ovulation to occur. The highest spike in the FSH, LH and estrogen correspond with ovulation. This spike also corresponds to the basal body temperature spike, shown by the darker blue line. The follicle development, along with the estrogen, LH, and FSH surges all occur during the follicular phase of the cycle. Once the ovum (matured follicle) has been released, there is a surge of progesterone that thickens the lining of the uterus. If the ovum has not been fertilized, the progesterone level will taper off, causing the lining of the uterus to break down. Once the progesterone level drops to its pre-ovulatory levels, your basal body temperature drops and menstruation begins. 

Notice the consistently high basal temperatures during the luteal phase. Mine were nowhere near consistent, but I did still see a drop in temperature right at the end of the luteal phase, which let me know I was about to start my period. 

As my cycle becomes regular, it will be really great to be able to predict the start of my period—unlike when I was an uneducated teenager and just crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t surprise me at school!

I hope this post helps to shed some light on what goes on in our bodies during our monthly cycle. It’s a wonder what a little knowledge can do!

Happy Menstruating!

Filed under Luteal phase Progesterone Estrogen Follicular Phase Luteinizing Hormone Follicular-stimulating hormone LH FSH Ovulation Ovum basal temperature cervical position cervical fluid menstruation FAM fertility charting hormones

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Fertility Chart(us) Interruptus

Life Update

Sorry for the hiatus in my blog posts. Things have been pretty crazy over the past few weeks. Last week I had the flu and was pretty much out of commission all week due to my fevered delirium. The holidays were also quite hectic between buying last minute gifts and traveling to see both my boyfriend’s family and my own family. 

It has been very obvious to me over the holidays that my hormones are still very unbalanced. The stress of traveling took a huge toll on my mood…all I wanted to do was sit at home. I’m glad I ended up spending time with the families, I just wish stressful situations didn’t put me in such a foul mood. It doesn’t feel fair to my boyfriend or to myself. I’m always so aware of how unpleasant I’m being, and yet I find it nearly impossible to control. Talk about frustrating!

I’ve been drinking a lot of detox tea lately. I have also started taking multi-vitamins that have a high B vitamin content to help my body rid itself of the excess hormones it is still carrying from the hbcp. Both of these things seem to be helping. Interestingly, I noticed that I was exceptionally irritable once I started taking the B vitamins. I’ve read that this happens because B vitamins help release the hormones from storage in your body’s fat cells; so your mood will change after the hormones are pulled out of fat cells and before your body has a chance to flush them from your system. 

I was due for my second period a couple days ago and there are still no signs of it coming. Right now my charting has revealed nothing about my cycle besides the fact that it’s still very random; but I want to keep at it so I can visualize when it finally starts to level out. This just proves to me how unbalanced my hormones still are. 

Charting Update


Since I’ve been sick, my FAM charting has taken somewhat of the back-burner. (To read more about FAM, visit my last two posts here, and here). Up until I got the flu, I was extremely rigorous with my charting; my hope was to get an idea of what my body is doing now that I’m not on the hbcp. Unfortunately, my illness came with a very high fever…so charting my temperature was out of the question for almost a week. I did, however, continue to check my cervical fertility signs. Even though my cervical fertility signs are still not regular, I found it to be very helpful to at least be able to chart something. I am a little disappointed, though, that my temperature chart has a huge gap in it.

Luckily, since my body is still adjusting to using its own hormones, I don’t think I missed a whole lot. I’m not using FAM for contraception at this point—my goal with charting right now is simply to learn. Although there is now about a week’s gap in my temperatures, I’m confident that I would still be able to use my chart for contraception if my cycle was regular. Since it is still quite erratic, it’s really not an issue at this point. 

According to Toni Weschler’s book, FAM is still a very effective method of contraception even during cycles when a fever or illness is present. Any sort of stress on your body can cause ovulation to be delayed, so even in the case where you’ve been sick, it’s entirely possible to still accurately detect ovulation. And even if you can’t chart your temperature, you can still check your cervical signs like I was. And if you’re still unsure, simply use another method of contraception, like condoms.

Plans for My Next Post

So before I got sick, I had been planning on writing this blog post about the pros (knowledge) and cons (getting sick) of FAM. I also wanted to bust a few of the FAM myths, like “I can’t use FAM because my periods are irregular” or “FAM isn’t as effective as other methods.” Sadly, I have not had a chance to write such a post.  I’m still planning on writing it, so bear with me. 

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday.

Happy Menstruating!

Filed under FAM fertility awareness natural contraception women vitamins detox tea temperature charting fertility charting hbcp the pill birth control condoms

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FAM, ma’am: Cervical Fertility Signs & putting it all together

"The management of fertility is one of the most important functions of adulthood." —Germaine Greer

In my last post I discussed how to use basal temperature charting to help determine monthly fertility. Today, we’ll be talking about cervical fertility signs—including both cervical fluid and cervical position. These signs, coupled with basal temperature charting, lead to extremely accurate prediction of fertile days is a woman’s cycle. At the end of this post, we’ll put together everything we’ve learned  and I’ll list out all the rules of FAM.

A long-term German prospective study by Frank-Hermann P, Freundl G, Gnoth Ch, et al. found that when used perfectly (that means no sex during the woman’s fertile phase, which lasts about 8 days) the pregnancy rate was 0.63%, which is comparable to oral contraceptives; with use of barrier methods during the woman’s fertile phase, the pregnancy rate was 2.2%. This study followed 758 users of FAM (or Natural Family Planning, NFP). That means the study had 4.78 unintended pregnancies with perfect use and 16.68 unintended pregnancies with barrier method use. Those odds look pretty reasonable to me. 

For anyone who would like to look up the study, the title is “Natural family planning with and without barrier method use in the fertile phase: efficacy in relation to sexual behaviour: a German prospective long-term study.” 

Now on to the good stuff. 

Fertility signs are a beautiful thing.

One of my favorite things that Toni Weschler mentioned in her book was the inappropriate and insensitive terminology that is used to describe female happenings. Healthy female cervical secretions are often referred to as “mucus” yet seminal fluid is not referred to as “seminal mucus” even though the two secretions are incredibly similar. Premature opening of the cervix during pregnancy is called “Incompetent Cervix.” Imagine if Erectile Dysfunction or premature ejaculation was instead called “Incompetent Penis.”  Can you imagine men’s reactions? So why the double standard? 

Instead of thinking our bodies are disgusting, women need to begin embracing the changes we see during our monthly cycles. The knowledge gained about our bodies through the learning and use of FAM is incredibly empowering. If you know you’re fertile on a specific day, having the power and knowledge to choose to conceive or abstain from sex (if you don’t want to get pregnant) is an amazing thing. 

So how do I check my cervical fluid? And what do I look for?

Checking your cervical fluid everyday is really quite simple. The best way to do this requires you to insert a finger into your vagina to feel your cervix. While feeling your cervix, try to gather some of the cervical fluid on your finger to examine. For those who may be squeamish, this might take some getting used to. For me, the benefits certainly outweigh any initial hesitation. You can also check cervical fluid by wiping the exterior of your vagina with bath tissue; this is not as accurate, as cervical fluid may take a while to reach the vaginal opening. 

As we learned in the last post, predicting your ovulation day using only basal temperature charting is difficult because your temperature rises only after you’ve ovulated. However, a woman’s cervical fluid changes throughout her cycle. During menstruation, any cervical fluid is usually masked by the menstrual blood. After menstruation, the cervical fluid is considered dry and is often crumbly; for some women it may also be a bit white and creamy. Either way, there will be very little fluid present.

As a woman enters her fertile phase, the cervical fluid will be come wet and slippery. The fluid will then become very clear, stretchy, and will have the consistency of raw egg white (this is the most fertile fluid and will be present right before ovulation). Some women may only have a day of this type of fertile cervical fluid, while others may have several days of this fertile fluid. As soon as you start to notice your cervical fluid becoming wet, you are not safe to have unprotected sex, as ovulation is approaching. This cervical fluid mimics male seminal fluid to provide an suitable environment for sperm to swim up into the uterus to fertilize the egg. So for those looking to conceive, egg-white cervical fluid is the time when you want to go for it!

The day of your wettest, stretchiest cervical fluid is known as your "Peak Day" because this is your most fertile day.  You will only be able to identify your peak day the day after it has occurred, as your cervical fluid will greatly diminish the next day. Once the egg is released, it has approximately 18 hours to be fertilized before it dies. The FAM method considers the 4 days after your peak day to be fertile to accommodate for the possibility that 2 eggs are released (which is very rare). The evening of the 4th day after your peak day, you are once again safe to have unprotected sex. The 4th day after your peak day almost always coincides with the 3rd day after your temperatures shift. To be extra safe, if these days do not coincide, wait until both days have past before considering yourself safe. 

After ovulation has past, your cervical fluid will return to the creamy, sticky or dry state for the remainder of your cycle. 

Checking cervical position:

A woman’s cervical position also changes throughout her cycle. During her infertile time, when the fluid is scant and dry, the cervix will be low, firm (like the tip of your nose), and the opening of the cervix will be closed. As ovulation approaches, the cervix starts to raise, becomes soft and fleshy (like your lips), and will begin to open. The cervix’s high, soft, and open position will coincide with the fertile, egg-white cervical fluid. After ovulation, the cervix will return to the low, firm, closed position for the remainder of the menstrual cycle. 

All cervical changes will be charted on your temperature chart in the appropriate spaces. 

Combined cervical and temperature fertility rules (FAM rules): 

1. You are safe to have unprotected sex for the first 5 days of your cycle if and only if there was an obvious temperature shift in your previous cycle. Cycle day 1 is the first day of menstrual bleeding. If you are truly menstruating, the egg is dead and gone. 

2. You are safe to have unprotected sex the evening of every day that your cervical fluid is dry. Sperm cannot live in a dry vaginal environment for more than a few hours. I say the evening in the case that you are not checking your cervical fluid by inserting a finger and gathering some for inspection. Cervical fluid may take all day to reach the vaginal opening, so if you are not checking via finger insertion, wait until the evening to have unprotected sex.

3. The first day that you notice your cervical fluid becoming even a little bit wet, your fertile period has begun. Sperm can thrive in a wet vaginal environment for up to 5 days, so the probability of them still being active upon ovulation is very high. 

4. You are once again safe to have unprotected sex on the evening of the 4th day after your Peak Day. This day usually coincides with the evening of the 3rd day after the temperature shift; if it does not, wait until both days have past before considering yourself safe for unprotected sex. 

5. You are safe to have unprotected sex for the remainder of your current cycle as long as your cervical fluid remains in the dry state.

6. If in doubt, do not take the risk. 


Notes and Summary:

Some women do not experience completely dry days. Some have slightly sticky, creamy fluid instead. If you have charted for several cycles and notice that you have this type of fluid as your “dry” fluid, follow the same rules listed above but be extremely thorough checking for the first signs wet cervical fluid. It will be more difficult to determine when your fluid starts to become wet (and when your fertile period begins), so be very cautious. 

Note: It will likely take several cycles before you become confident identifying the changes occurring with your cervix. Be patient and chart carefully, because the benefits will be amazing! 

For anyone like me who has recently come off the birth control pill, it is very important to wait until your cycle is regular and you notice these changes happening normally before you use FAM as a method of contraception. It is also important to note that FAM does not protect against STIs, so it is recommended for use among women who have a stable partner and are not worried about contracting sexually transmitted infections and diseases. 

As stated earlier in this post, if these rules are followed very carefully and you do not take any chances (read: if you abstain from sex) during your fertile time, the FAM method is highly effective. Plus, it is totally natural and gives you knowledge and power over your body. What could be better?

For reasons why FAM is not more popular in the US, read my earlier post here

Happy Menstruating! 

Filed under BBT Cervical Fluid Cervical Position ED FAM Toni Weschler birth control effective birth control fertility awareness natural contraception pregnancy achievement women NFP

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FAM, ma’am: Intro to Temperature Charting

So I decided to play around a bit with the theme of the blog…hopefully you like it.

This post will be a continuation of my last, FAM: fact or fiction? I left off with a list of three items to monitor for monthly fertility:

1. Basal Temperature

2. Cervical Fluid

3. Cervical Position

I’m going to describe one fertility sign in each of my next three posts, starting with Basal Temperature. I don’t want to leave anything out, so I’d like to devote one post per fertility sign. 

Taking your Basal Temperature

Taking your basal temperature is pretty simple. All you need is a basal thermometer and somewhere to record your daily temperature. You can find blank charts online or use one of the apps that currently exist (though, in my opinion, the apps and websites are all pretty awful). As for the basal thermometer, you can buy one at most drug stores. I bought mine at CVS for under $10; it was a bit hard to find, but I finally got hold of one in the “family planning” (aka condom) section. My thermometer actually came with a few blank charts, but I’m currently using the blank tear-out charts in the back of Toni Weschler’s book

Why my waking temperature?

Your body’s temperature fluctuates throughout the day and is the most consistent while you are asleep. Your basal temperature is defined as your body’s waking temperature and must be taken around the same time every morning, as soon as you wake up. This piece of information is very important, because as soon as you sit up, talk, drink water, or move around your body temperature will start to rise.  I’m not saying you can’t necessarily sit up to grab your thermometer off your bed-side table, but I wouldn’t move around any more than absolutely necessary. Your temperature can be taken either orally or vaginally; just make sure to be consistent and do it the same way every morning. 

What factors will affect my temperature?

The general rule for basal temp is that you should try to be as consistent as possible with the time you take it every morning. Your temperature will fluctuate only slightly while you are soundly asleep. At least for me, if I sleep more than 8 hours I will generally start to get a bit restless and not sleep as well. So if I take my basal temperature too late in the morning, I find that it is several 1/10th degrees higher than I expected. This may not sound like a lot, but temperatures change quite subtly, though noticeably, throughout your cycle. So if your daily temperature is higher than expected, you may need to discard it. 

If you’re one, like me, who usually gets up in the middle of the night for one reason or another, you will want to make sure to take your temperature after you’ve had at least a couple solid hours of uninterrupted sleep. I usually wake up needing to pee at about 3:30 or 4:30 in the morning, so that’s when I’ve started taking my temperature. Since I go to bed around 10 or 10:30 during the week, I’ve already had several hours of good sleep by that point. If I wake up at 1:30 instead, I’ll use the bathroom, go back to sleep and then wait until 5:30 when my alarm goes off to take my temp. 

Alcohol will also affect your basal temperature. The rule mentioned in Weschler’s book, and also one that I’ve heard several other places, is that if in the morning you feel like you drank the night before (aka you’re hung over), then your temperature will likely be affected. I usually still take it just to make sure. If it is higher than expected, it may need to be discarded (we will discuss discarding temperatures in its own section below). 

The pill and temperature charting:

If you’re like me and have recently come off the hormonal birth control pill (hbcp), your temperatures will probably be a bit crazy for a while. This is because the hbcp suppresses your body’s natural hormone production and replaces the hormones with synthetic “pregnancy” hormones, among lots of other bad things. So it will take at least a few cycles for your body to find it’s natural rhythm. I’ve spoken to women who have gone 6 months without having a period once they come off the pill. I luckily only had to wait a month, but since I regularly check my 3 fertility signs I know that my cycle is nowhere near “normal.” It is important to note that I am not currently using FAM as my primary form of birth control and I do not plan to do so until my cycles (and all 3 fertility signs) have obviously returned to a regular pattern. 

On the other hand, if you are au-naturel and have resisted the hbcp poison, first of all , Bravo. Secondly, the stages of your cycle will likely be very predictable after charting only one or two cycles. 

So what does a “normal” temperature chart look like?

I’m glad you asked! Below is a chart I found in a simple Google search. 

Temperature Charting

The above chart comes from FertilityFriend, and while many women find this website to be good enough for their charting needs, I have found it to be quite outdated and buggy and instead prefer to chart on paper.

First of all, day 1 of every cycle is the first day of menstrual bleeding (the first day of your period). Not every woman will have a textbook 28-day cycle. They can vary vastly, and for some women will be up to 40 days. The idea that a woman ovulates on the 14th day of her cycle is a complete myth, so remove that information from your head immediately and keep reading to determine your ovulation using SCIENCE! What? Science? Crazy! 

The horizontal red line shown through the middle of the chart is called the “coverline.” As you can see, roughly the first half of the data (temperature) points are on or below the coverline, while the second half of the data points are above the coverline. The jump between days 14 and 15 where the temperature makes an obvious shift from below the coverline to above the coverline indicates that ovulation has occurred within the last 24 hours. 

If you are charting to become pregnant, this temperature shift is the time when you want to have unprotected intercourse. However, if you are charting to avoid pregnancy, you are not safe to have unprotected intercourse until the evening of the 3rd consecutive day that the temperature is above the coverline. If your temperature dips below the coverline on the 2nd day after the shift, you must start the count over. If you have become pregnant, your temperatures will remain above the coverline and not dip back down as seen in the chart above. 

The portion of the cycle where the temperatures are below the coverline is known as the “follicular phase” (the egg is still maturing); the portion of the cycle where temperatures are above the coverline is known as the “luteal phase” (ovulation has already occurred). 

Discarding Temperatures

Temperatures may fall outside of their normal range for a number of reasons, as discussed previously in this post. If you are just coming off the hbcp and you can’t tell whether the temperature is “normal,” I would personally not discard it and simply make a note of any factors that may have caused it to be high (drinking, early waking, etc). I would only recommend keeping a possibly faulty temperature reading if you are NOT using FAM as your primary form of birth control.

If you have had normal cycles for quite a while and you notice a temperature that seems off, follow the “rule of thumb”: instead of drawing a line between the previous data point and the erratic data point, wait until you have once again charted a “normal” temperature, and draw a dotted line between your two most recent normal temperatures (discarding your abnormal temperature data). Essentially, pretend the erratic data point does not exist. If you’re confused, re-read the instructions while looking at the chart below.

Notice the temperature on cycle day 9 is missing (this is because it was higher than expected), so a dotted line is drawn between the temperatures recorded on days 8 and 10, leaving out the temperature from day 9. This chart also clearly shows the temperature shift (in this case between days 13 and 14) that occurs right after ovulation. Every woman’s cycle is different, so in your case the temperature shift will likely occur on different cycle days. Your cycle may also be longer or shorter. 

Discarding Temps

If this woman is charting to avoid pregnancy, she would be safe to have unprotected sex the evening of cycle day 16 (the evening of the 3rd consecutive day that her temperatures have been above the coverline). 

Drawing a Coverline: 

For this explanation, we will continue to use the chart shown above. This woman’s temperature jump occurred between days 13 and 14. To draw the coverline, look back at the 6 temperatures recorded before the shift (in this case, days 8-13). Draw the coverline 1/10th of a degree higher than the highest of these 6 temperatures (in this case, temp data for cycle day 8 is missing, so we will ignore that). In other words, between cycle days 8 and 13, this woman’s highest temperature was 97.8 F and occurred on day 12. The coverline will be drawn 1/10th of a degree above this, at 97.9 F. 

Summary: 

So I think that’s about all there is to temperature charting. It’s a lot of information, but it’s actually quite easy in practice. Just to recap:

1. Your basal temperature is your waking temperature

2. The temperature shift that occurs (approximately) mid-cycle tells you that ovulation has just occurred. 

3. The coverline is drawn using the temperature data from the 6 cycle days prior to the ovulatory temperature shift. It is drawn 1/10th of a degree above the highest temperature that occurred in those 6 days. 

4. If you are charting to avoid pregnancy, you are safe to have unprotected sex the evening of the 3rd consecutive day your temperature is above the coverline. If your temperature dips below the coverline before the evening of the 3rd day, you must start the count over.

5. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Every woman’s cycle is different. Your cycle may be 28 days, or it may be 40 days. The idea that ovulation occurs 14 days into your cycle is a MYTH. Use the signs your own body gives you…it’s smarter than you think!

Happy Menstruating!

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FAM: fact or fiction?

After stopping the hbcp, I was frantically in search of a book, a website, anything really that would help me uncover some natural forms of birth control. “Natural” birth control isn’t something that is really discussed in the US. When I asked my OB-GYN about effective natural methods of birth control, she replied “Oh, you mean like the copper IUD?” This was hardly the answer I was looking for.

The HBCP and Physician Incentives:

Though at the time I simply thought my GYN was ignorant, now I’m not really surprised that this is the answer I received. Paragard is the newest and greatest in IUDs. After reading several studies about the common relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical representatives, it was no wonder that every time I complained to my GYN about the pill I was taking she would simply suggest that I switch to the latest and greatest.

Pharmaceutical reps often give gifts to physicians in the form of meals, travel and vacation vouchers, or research grants; they also visit with physicians several times per month to “discuss” (read: try to sell) new medications. Yet physicians still claim that this type of relationship has no effect on their prescribing habits (read one study here). I personally find this hard to believe. With physicians constantly being manipulated by pharmaceutical reps with trips and food and gifts, what incentive do they have to provide their patients with unbiased, quality medical care? Why would my GYN have suggested that I quit all forms of unnatural, prescribed (Cha-Ching) birth control and instead move to using a natural method? Stopping the hbcp eliminated all awful side effects I was experiencing, but all that means to her is one less customer. 

Naturopaths and Alternative Physicians are a different story—I don’t want to give all physicians a bad name, but my situation was highly driven by the pharm industry. 

FAM overview:

After I stumbled upon Toni Weschler’s book on Amazon entitled Taking Charge of Your Fertility and saw all of the fantastic reviews it has received, I immediately purchased it. This book is by far the most enlightening I have ever read, and I read it in a matter of days. I learned more about my body in those few days than I have learned throughout my life. The method she describes in her book is known as FAM, or the Fertility Awareness Method. 

So, now that all that jibber-jabber is over, what is FAM? FAM—alternately known as the Symptothermal Method—teaches you to track your body’s natural fertility signs to forecast when you will ovulate. Women have been brainwashed into thinking that their bodies are confusing and unreliable, when in fact they merely lack the knowledge they need to “decode” their bodies’ natural fertility symptoms.

Unlike men, women are not fertile all the time. On their own, women are only fertile for approximately 24 hours during any given cycle. However, once you throw a man into the mixture, that 24-hour fertility window suddenly increases due to the fact that sperm can live in a woman’s body for up to 5 days. Taking this into account, FAM helps women determine when they are and are not safe to have unprotected sex. 

How to use FAM:

Successful use of FAM depends on several fertility symptoms, which are listed below.

1. Basal Temperature

2. Cervical Fluid

3. Cervical Position

I will get into how to use the above list to determine fertility in my next post. For now, all you need to remember is that many women successfully use FAM both to prevent and achieve pregnancy (depending on goals), and that experience shows us that many physicians do not have our best interest at heart. Never settle for mediocre care. 

Happy Menstruating. 

Filed under FAM GYN Natural Birth Control Women basal temperature cervical fluid cervical position fertility awareness fertility forecast hbcp the pill pregnancy achievement