I was dumbfounded by a recent study, which alleged that a third of all women do not know their fertility window in a cycle. My immediate reaction was “Aaah aahn! How hard can it be to calculate when you will ovulate in a cycle?” And then I remembered that before this platform came into my life, I had merely heard the words ovulation, safe period, and had listened to nurses try to explain the maths behind these issues, and even scanned some materials on the said subjects. Yet, the honest truth was I was a stark illiterate, when it came to issues of my fertility.
When I came to this realisation, it started to make sense that, truly, a third of women may truly be out there, who have no idea when they do ovulate, when it’s fine to have safe sex without contraception, and other stuff that comes with knowing your body and its nuances, like the back of your hand.
However, since my days of being a TTC JJC, I have reached a place where I can use apps and some websites to get my fertile window, and on to a stage where I don’t even need an app, I can make the calculations, all on my own.
With the help of Ovulations Predictor Kits (OPKs) and Basal Body Temperature (BBT) charting, it has even become easier to track your cycle and know when conception is suitable or not. Since we are talking BBT, it will be the focus of this article, but first, here’s a personal experience with the BBT.
Folashade was a Masters degree holder by the time she got married, aged 28. Her husband was only a couple of years older. He was working on his own Masters degree, but they were both ready to have children…or at least they said so.
But the babies came a lot sooner than they would have wanted. Their first pregnancy, which turned out to be twins, happened while on their honeymoon. Less than a year into their marriage, they were parents and so happy about it. All the people who prayed for twins at their wedding ceremony, came to rejoice with them and also prayed for another set of twins.
The twins were less than one year old and Folashade and her husband were discussing contraceptives, as their sex life had gained momentum, when they discovered Folashade was pregnant again. It was a case of “Oh my goodness! We just had twins! How are we going to survive?”
Although they were very happy, Folashade started to experience what is called the “fear factor.” She just wasn’t feeling prepared—physically or emotionally—for having a really large family, something that was becoming reality sooner rather than later.
This back-to-back pregnancy made Folashade realise two things; she didn’t have a good understanding of her own fertility and realize how exhausted she was going to be at the end of the day, by choosing to become a stay-at-home mom. It was at this point that they started seeking for answers, nature’s own birth control method was the one they settled on in the end.
With their chosen method, they were able to avoid unplanned pregnancies for almost four years, before they started TTC for a fourth child. Unfortunately, that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.
They were however able to get pregnant again, and gave birth to their fourth child, a boy.
Folashade and her husband are in their late 40s now, and have never used any chemical birth control. And it appears they just might never have to.
She used the BBT method to protect herself from unplanned pregnancies and also achieve her last pregnancy. Decades later, that charting is still helping women.
Likewise the case of Toyin, whom I was introduced to by Folashade as a staunch member of the BBT club.
Through charting, Toyin became incredibly tuned-in to what her body was doing and what her fertility cycle looked like each month. After years of charting, she had some concerns about her cycle, because things “just didn’t look right.”
As it turned out, she had a cyst on her ovary that needed to be removed. Once that was taken care of, her cycle returned to what it had been doing prior to that interruption.
The charting helped her and her doctor identify a problem probably earlier than had she not been so in touch with her fertility.
Every woman has a fertility cycle, but that fertility cycle is going to be different for every woman. Additionally, for any particular woman, her cycle can be different from month to month. This is where charting is very beneficial — if not critical.
How to get an accurate BBT reading
- Take your temperature when you first wake up and are lying or sitting quietly in bed. You need to do the reading at the same time, give or take 30 minutes, every morning.
- Leave the thermometer on your night table before you go to bed so there’s no need to get up for it in the morning. Shake mercury thermometers down at night or dip them briefly in cool water. Doing the motions in the morning can cause a rise in temperature.
- Don’t eat or drink anything, even water, before doing the reading.
- Be aware of factors other than ovulation that can increase BBT: emotional disturbance, stress, a cold or infection, jet lag, drinking alcohol the night before, using an electric blanket.
- Don’t pull all-nighters: You need to have at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep to get an accurate reading.
If the idea of charting sounds stressful, or if you just can’t make it work, there are other ways to estimate when you will ovulate.
For example, you can try using an ovulation predictor kit, like I mentioned earlier, which measures your hormone levels and indicates when you’re about to ovulate.
Tasking, but is it worth it? Definitely.
Join the conversation with any of our TTC and Pregnancy Groups here