Understanding Subfertility - Charting Basal Body Temperature
My Experience With Basal Body Temperature, Charting, And Clomid
My below post about how to chart your basal body temperature contains affiliate links to products that will help you with your charting. This means I receive a small commission from sales from this post. This is also a tale about my own personal experience, unique to myself. Be sure to consult your health professionals for your unique situation. Thank you for reading!
For some, many actually, becoming pregnant is a breeze. They can do it without hardly any effort. I know several "on the first try" couples. But I also know several 8-month couples, one-year + couples, couples who have experienced devasting losses, and some who are still walking down the confusing road of fertility, on their way to starting a family of their own.
For us, starting a family was not easy. In hindsight, it wasn't terribly difficult, but it did involve over a year of charting, basal body temping, and a little magical drug called Clomid. When you are in the thick of "trying", the whole process can be very frustrating because, with every passing month, you cannot help but wonder what measures you are going to have to go to in order to have a child of your own.
I think my (new) doctor described it best. She said many of us are subfertile. If a couple is subfertile, it means that it takes them on average longer to get pregnant than others. I once heard it described as if you are running a marathon and the finish line is nowhere in sight. You're optimistic that there is a finish line, but with every passing mile (month) and lack of an end of sight (a positive pregnancy test), frustrations start to build and couples can begin to get discouraged.
I've been there. I was 30 years old, and after 6 months without a positive pregnancy test, I started to really doubt all that I had learned as a teenager about how easy it was to become pregnant. LIES! Well, of course, that wasn't a lie. At that point, it surely was a cinch. Turns out, our most optimal time to get pregnant biologically is socially not the most ideal time. Go to college they said. Get a job, they said. Get married, travel the world, hang out with friends, get a Masters, enjoy the freedom....then, have children, they said. Well, we did all of that! And we are glad that we did. But when we were in the midst of trying, I began to question our slightly delayed start.
My main issue was that my cycles were terribly irregular. That was an understatement. Since going off of birth control 10 months prior, I had not even gotten one period. At this time, I was not charting because there was nothing to chart. I saw my doc at six months, and she gave me a pat on the back and advised us to "keep trying". Ugggggggg. trying seemed silly when I didn't even have a cycle!!
After ten months, I was back in my doctor's office. I was telling her that I still had not gotten a period. She said that we should try putting me on birth control to make my cycles regular. I was shocked that she was offering to put me on BC when we were trying to get pregnant. I asked if this was some new science that I hadn't heard about that works for fertility. She then asked, "Wait, are you trying to get pregnant?" The immediate realization that she had NO idea why I was back in her office when I had seen her four months ago and had now waited seven weeks to get in for another appointment, sent me into immediate tears. I chewed her out in front of the nurse who was taking notes, astounded at how much she had not been listening to me. At that moment, she wrote me a script for Clomid. I left happy that we were finally getting somewhere, but disappointed that she was so clueless to my situation even when I had been to her office just a few months prior to discuss fertility struggles.
I did all my own research on charting and basal body temping (BBT). I ordered a basal body thermometer from Amazon and then downloaded an app to help me track my temperatures. The way you take your basal body temperature is that you need to temp (by mouth) every morning at the same time before your feet hit the floor. That means you need to keep thermometer next to your bed, and temp every morning at the same time while laying in bed.
Before ovulation, your BBT will have a certain range. On the day AFTER you ovulate, you will notice about a 0.5-1.0 degree spike in your BBT. This is the day AFTER, meaning you may be sort of too late if you used BBT exclusively to determine the best time for fertility. I coupled BBT with ovulation prediction kits in order to know more info about what was going on in my body.
Understanding Ovulation Prediction Tests
My favorite ovulation predictors (and pregnancy tests) were the inexpensive Wonfo brand. I was using SO many of these tests that I needed to move to a more economical version of the pricier kind. Once I received a positive on the Wondfo strip (which is indicated by two lines), I would then often confirm it with a Clear Blue Advanced Digital test. The BBT apps then allow you to mark when you receive a positive result. Once you test positive on the ovulation predictor test, it's go time! Within 24-48 hours, they say ovulation will likely happen which will then be verified with a temp spike in BBT. During this window of time, it's time to "try".
I am an advocate for trying every day or every 36 hours. I know it seems so systematic and planned, but for some of us, it's just the way it needs to be! We were not successful for the first two months of using Clomid. I was extremely optimistic since my cycles started as soon as I started to take Clomid (which was jump-started by taking several days worth of doctor prescribed progesterone). I really really really wanted month three of Clomid to work, because, after month three, I would need to enlist the help of a fertility specialist. (Side note: I was not having ultrasounds while taking Clomid, so the chance of multiples was unknown and very possible!)
Below are my three months of basal body temperature charts that ultimately lead to my first pregnancy. There are many different apps you can use - go to your app store and search "fertility tracker", and several will pop up.
How To Chart Basal Body Temperature
A luteal phase that lasts longer than 12-14 days could be a good sign. As you can see above, in month one and two, my luteal phase was only 12 and 11 days long. The day after those final luteal days, my temp would plummet, and like clockwork, my period would start that day. But in the third Clomid cycle, it was 14 days long. This is when I took a pregnancy test and got a POSITIVE!
We were beyond ecstatic. It's so hard to explain what it feels like to finally pee on the stick and see a faint line when you have been looking for it for so long. I first tested with a Wondfo, then a Clear Blue Easy Pregnancy test, and I did that for many many days! I just wanted to keep seeing those two lines or plus sign!
Pregnancy Confirmation, Again, and Again, and Again
And guess what? The pregnancy stuck. Once you finally get pregnant, the thought of losing the baby can take over, which is the worst. We could barely hold this secret in. We had told our whole family at 5.5 weeks (on Christmas), and then many of our friends at 6.5 weeks. Many people I know choose to wait much longer, but due to holidays we just HAD TO TELL! And with my friends, at my 7-week mark, I was going to be in a wedding. I definitely needed to tell them before the wedding because I didn't want anyone to call me out for not drinking on the wedding day (and then divert attention away from my friend).
My pregnancy proceeded as normal, and nine months later, we had our sweet little boy in our lives. Best experience of my life!
Birth Day Was The Best Day!
As our son grew and the months went by, I couldn't help but wonder how breastfeeding would affect my cycle and future chances of becoming pregnant. I also had a lot of questions regarding if I would need Clomid again for a second pregnancy. I ended up starting to wean my son at 9.5 months, and I cut off the breastfeeding altogether at 11 months. My cycles started back up again on their own, which was a milestone of its own. This happened at 14 months. I never went back on birth control, so along this time, I could have become pregnant at any point (in theory).
I started to chart again soon after I got my first period after the birth of my son (14 months postpartum). My cycles started normal (30 days) but began to get longer. They went from 30 days to 31, to 37, to 45. I kept detailed records for my new doc in case I would be needing the data to be prescribed fertility treatment. I was really hoping to not need it, but I also did not want to delay becoming pregnant again since we were hoping to have our kids be semi-close in age.
8 Day Long Luteal Phase - Too Short
After charting for a few months, I was noticing that I was having very short luteal phases. I began to read up on luteal phase defect, and I determined that I might be having this type of defect (fyi self-diagnosing is my fave thing to do LOL). The luteal phase, from what I understand, is ideally 12-14 days in length in order for a woman to be able to maintain a pregnancy. Mine was about eight or nine days long. During the luteal phase, the lining of your uterus becomes thicker, preparing to hold a pregnancy. If there is not enough time for this, your body could flush everything out of your body too quickly before a pregnancy has time to stick.
8 Day Long Luteal Phase - Too Short For Me!
Nine Day Luteal Phase - I was optimist on this one, but no luck
The above cycle was 37 days in length. My luteal phase was only nine days in length. After this month, I made an appointment to see my doctor. I brought all of the above charts along with me in order to present my analysis to my doctor.
She also agreed that my luteal phases were on the shorter side and that my cycles were becoming more irregular with time (she also pinpointed other ket things unique to my and my body that were going on). She prescribed me three different fertility meds, including Clomid. At this time, I was halfway through the sixth cycle that I was having postpartum. I was so happy that my doctor was responsive and understanding of my situation. This doctor was so very different from my doctor with my first pregnancy. I ultimately switched to my new doc because my old doc did not practice obstetrics anymore in her career. I am so very happy with the new practice that I visit.
Now, to my complete shock, I never had to take these fertility meds. On my sixth cycle postpartum, which ended up being 45 days in length, I woke up to this one morning:
14 Day Luteal Phase Which Resulted In Pregnancy!
I love charts and data! Some of us need a little jump start to get things going. I am thankful drugs like Clomid are available and have worked for so many people like myself looking to have a family. Since many of us are getting married later in life and having children in our 30's, I am happy that there is help out there to those of us who need it.
Announcing our second pregnancy was just another amazing moment in our lives. I feel so extremely lucky to be able to be a mom. I would take all of the hair loss, swelling, and mastitis in the world (which I was blessed to experience with my first pregnancy) to be able to do this motherhood gig for the second time. December cannot come soon enough!