Countless young women on the journey of finding the right birth control method for them will hopefully discover the myriad benefits of fertility awareness-based methods.
The crux of many fertility awareness-based methods relies on measuring and charting your basal body temperature every single day, ideally at the same time – in the morning and before getting out of bed – to get the most accurate measurement.
While fertility awareness-based methods (FABM) function effectively as birth control – when studied and used as directed – tracking your basal body temperature (BBT) has several benefits aside from its use as contraception. Fertility awareness doesn’t have to just be about trying to get pregnant or pregnancy prevention, and tracking your BBT can be incredibly helpful when it comes to other aspects of your health and wellbeing.
1. It Teaches Discipline
When I first discovered the fertility awareness method and the benefits of charting my BBT, I was a college senior and had just ended my toxic relationship with hormonal birth control, after six years on the pill. While the relief I felt coming off hormonal birth control was a huge benefit on it’s own, I knew I had my work cut out for me as far as learning and implementing FABM. As a young adult, I was still staying out late at night and waking up late in the morning, and not always exercising or eating as I should have. Charting is a responsibility, and charting effectively and accurately requires discipline, which at the time I didn’t have but quickly had to learn.
Charting your BBT isn’t something you can do halfway and get accurate results.
Knowing that I had to wake up each day at the same time to measure my BBT, as well as eat a balanced diet, be active, and take care of myself mentally, really helped strengthen my transition from college to young adulthood. I left late nights and late mornings behind and started to understand that my reproductive health and fertility are as much a responsibility as any other. Measuring your BBT isn’t something you can do halfway (you won’t be charting accurately or getting the full benefits if you do) and while taking your temperature and charting each morning is a big commitment, every woman currently using it would likely agree that it’s a worthwhile one.
2. It Keeps You Invested in Your Health
When we’re measuring and charting our BBT, we’re actively participating in our own health. When beginning a FABM journey, it helps to keep a health journal, where we can keep track of our daily temperature, but also explore what else we might be feeling. While there are tons of apps out there that accomplish this, you might go for the old-fashioned approach and actually use pen and paper (I definitely recommend this when first starting to chart, as it keeps you motivated to see things visually).
After recording your daily temp, explore what else you’re feeling. Did I sleep well last night? Did I have sex this morning or the night before? Am I feeling bloated or experiencing indigestion? When was my last bowel movement? You can also journal about your emotions – anger, sadness, contentment – all of which can be clues pointing to your fluctuating hormones and where you’re at in your cycle.
3. It Might Reveal a Hormonal Issue
One holistic medicine and thyroid expert argues that by tracking BBT, we can work “backwards” to see if we might possibly have hypothyroidism or another thyroid condition. Essentially, T3 (a hormone converted from the thyroid-produced hormone T4) contributes greatly to how warm our bodies are at any given time. By tracking the daily fluctuations in our basal body temperature, we can gain greater insight into how our T3 might be functioning.
A consistently low basal body temperature might correlate to poorer thyroid function, while a warmer or higher BBT might correlate to better thyroid function. Your thyroid and endocrine system as a whole dictates so much of what occurs in our bodies, and tracking BBT can help us understand if that system is firing on all cylinders or needs attention.
You need progesterone to regulate your stress response and reduce inflammation.
Tracking your BBT could also reveal a progesterone deficiency. After ovulation, the corpus luteum produces progesterone to prepare the uterus for a possible pregnancy. Progesterone causes the body temperature to rise slightly, which is visible in your BBT. If that rise doesn’t happen, it could indicate anovulation or insufficient progesterone. You need progesterone (besides to maintain a pregnancy) to help you feel calm and mellow, to regulate your stress response, and to reduce inflammation.
4. It Gives Us a Deeper Understanding of Sex
In middle school and high school, sex education curriculum essentially amounts to “don’t get pregnant” and relies heavily on contraception, with little to no examination or explanation of how contraception (specifically hormonal birth control) can affect us as women, nor does it posit the emotional and mental consequences inherently associated with sex.
With a fertility awareness-based method, sex is finally given the recognition it deserves as something that can severely impact us, both in the risk of unplanned pregnancy and contracting sexually transmitted infections, not to mention the emotional tie we form with a partner. With a fertility awareness-based method, we as women pretty much have the power to dictate when, where, and how often (all of which we know by charting), if we choose to have sex at all. Not only that, but we come to the realization that sex isn’t a meaningless or insignificant act as it’s treated by the rest of society. FABM demands that we give sex the respect it deserves, as well as treat it with seriousness.
5. It Increases Body Literacy
If a doctor were to ask you, could you tell them accurately when you last had a period or last ovulated, without consulting notes or a calendar? If they asked about the state of your cervical mucus over your last cycle, would you know how to answer? There’s no shame in saying no. Hormonal birth control essentially ensures that we don’t have periods or ovulate at all – more than that, it encourages us to be okay with both.
Before stopping hormonal birth control and starting to chart, I had no idea that my monthly bleed wasn’t even a period, nor was I aware of how important consistent and healthy ovulation is to fertility. When we begin to chart, these days are some of the most exciting in our cycle, as is beginning to notice patterns and signs of hormonal fluctuations.
Both our period and ovulation are huge indicators of our health.
We’re often told that if we’re not trying to get pregnant, then we shouldn’t worry about ovulation or if we’re having a period or just a withdrawal bleed. But both of these are huge indicators of our health – regardless of our pregnancy plans. Learning to chart is empowering because in rejecting that narrative, we’re becoming more informed about our own health and how our bodies are functioning on a fundamental level.
6. It Connects You to Your Femininity
Though we’re told otherwise these days, no one else can do what women do, period (and pun intended). We think of our bodies and our periods as inconveniences when in reality, they’re anything but. Our periods are perhaps the biggest touchstone we can use to gauge our reproductive health, whether we’re trying to conceive or not. There’s a reason that only women are able to do these things, just as only we are able to conceive and have children. Taking BBT and charting each day could be an inconvenience for some, but it helps us visualize the functions in our female bodies that are at play every single day.
No matter why you start taking your basal body temperature each morning and charting the results, all of these are benefits you might notice throughout your journey. This technique relies on scientific methods to provide insight that no other contraceptive option can offer, with the added empowerment of an effective, hormone-free approach that unites body and mind.
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