When you’re charting your cycles you can confirm ovulation has passed when you see three temperatures higher than the previous six. The difficulty with this is that a lot of women don’t have a clear temperature shift and it can be confusing. This is especially important for women trying to avoid pregnancy so they can consider themselves to be infertile again and confidently go back to unprotected sex.
Here are five tips for dealing with erratic temperatures.
1. Take your temperature around the same time each day.
When I first started charting, I thought the rule was to take your temperature first thing when you wake up after about the same number of hours of sleep. I was doing this, even keeping track of how many hours of sleep I got each night (!), but it still didn’t make any sense. I was close, but misunderstood it just enough for it to be totally wrong.
Eventually I learned that it’s not about the number of hours of sleep (well, kind of, but not really – you do need a minimum of five hours of sleep), but instead it’s about the actual time of day where you take the temperature. Once I figured this out my charts were a lot clearer and made a lot more sense.
You see, your body has a 24-hour cycle of temperatures every day (part of what’s called the circadian rhythm), and it’s always a bit lower in the morning and gets higher through the day. In order to compare one day to the next to the next to the next, you need to catch your body at that same point in its natural 24-hour cycle in order to see any kind of pattern.
What about weekends? You can take your temperature one hour either side of your normal wake up time and it will still be accurate (so if you normally get up at 7am you can take it between 6am and 8am and it will be fine). But if you want to sleep in more than one hour, you can set an alarm at your normal wake up time on the weekends, take your temperature, then fall back to sleep again. This is definitely the most accurate way to do it.
Keep in mind the main thing is to get a pattern, so the individual temperatures aren’t as important – unless it’s close to ovulation then you need to be sure you have that three over six pattern with accurate temperatures you can trust.
2. Keep track of what’s going on in your life that might affect your temperatures.
As I’ve said many times, mucus is Queen when it comes to fertility awareness charting, partly because it’s not as easily influenced by outside factors. This is absolutely true and you need to have a good handle on your mucus observations to use the method effectively. But temperature is a good confirmation that ovulation has passed and using it for this purpose gives many people more confidence with the method. When doing this, it’s important to remember that temperature is almost guaranteed to be affected by outside factors.
Some things that can affect your temperature include the number of hours of sleep you got, the time you went to bed, the time you woke up, how well you slept, drinking alcohol, certain medications, illness, stress, the temperature in the room, travelling, daylight savings, and more!
By recording notes in your chart you can learn what affects your temperatures and then use those extra details to help interpret what was going on when you look back and try to find a pattern.
3. Use a glass thermometer for 10 minutes (or keep the digital thermometer in your mouth for five minutes before you turn it on).
If you want to have the most accurate temperature reading, a non-digital glass thermometer under your armpit for 10 minutes is the best way to go. Doing it this way will give you a much more accurate reading, and is also one of the best ways to assess thyroid health.
However, if you don’t want to do this, and prefer to use a digital oral thermometer, you can improve the reading by leaving it in your mouth for five minutes before you turn it on. This will give it a chance to warm up and hopefully will provide a more stable pattern on the chart.
A digital thermometer is good enough for fertility awareness to be effective, and being consistent every day is the key to having a good pattern on your chart, but doing it this way can help improve the accuracy if your patterns seem erratic. The key is consistency! Don’t change how you are taking the temperature mid-cycle or you may have a false temperature shift. If you want to change how you are doing it, start at the beginning of the next cycle.
4. Have your thyroid health assessed.
The thyroid gland is one of the main things affecting your body’s metabolism and its temperature patterns. Poor thyroid health also happens to be one of the most commonly undiagnosed problems and has huge impacts for menstrual cycle health.
If your temperatures are erratic, too low (less than 36.5 degrees Celsius before ovulation), or too high (more than 37.5 degrees Celsius post-ovulation) it could potentially be because you have an unhealthy thyroid, so I would recommend that you get it checked out.
Depending what health care system you live in, your doctor may only do a test for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). However, there are a few other measurements that are needed to get the full picture. These are T3, T4, and thyroid antibodies. You may need to find a holistic practitioner and you may need to pay for the tests.
5. Ask a fertility awareness educator for help.
I promise you I’m not saying this just because I’m a fertility awareness educator. If you don’t have a clear temperature pattern, if you can’t figure out where your coverline is (the line between pre- and post-ovulation), and if the rise from low to high temps is really slow or erratic, then it can be really difficult to be confident using this method, especially if you are trying to avoid pregnancy.
By working with a teacher you can (1) get support to figure out if you are doing it right, (2) have a healthcare practitioner evaluate if there might be any underlying health issues causing this problem that should be addressed, and (3) get support to interpret the chart so you can determine when you go from fertile back to infertile within your cycles.
Have more questions about interpreting your temperature pattern? Contact me and we can take a look at your charts together!