Basal Body Temperature
When my partner, Dr. Levy, and I opened Shady Grove Fertility in 1991, many infertility patients were using “old school” methods of testing their fertility – Basal body temperature (BBT) charts. While not entirely useless, this unsophisticated measure of fertility has been replaced with simple scientific tests that can quickly and accurately point you in the right direction.
Stop the Madness!
For those of you who have tried charting your basal body temperature, you know the routine. You need a thermometer by the bedside and must have a restful night of sleep, (totally undisturbed- yeah right!). Don’t forget to use the bathroom just before bedtime and hold any urge to go until your temperature is taken in the morning. And oh yeah, don’t forget to tell your partner, “Do not touch me, wake me or go near me tonight – I must have an accurate temperature reading in the morning, it must be charted and I must see when my temperature possibly drops- then I will call you. I hope you understand how important this is. Goodnight. See you in 12- 18 days.”
Yes, charting your basal body temperature is sometimes suggested by some physicians or online “experts.” Yes, a biphasic (demonstrated temperature increase) may indirectly indicate possible ovulation. The production of progesterone, after ovulation, potentially increases the basal body temperature. However, it is inherently inaccurate, can be anxiety provoking and does not change our ultimate recommended plan.
Advancements in Science
Today, Day 3 testing which includes simple blood tests and an ultrasounds are much more accurate measures of a woman’s fertility. The typical ‘Day 3 Bloods’ usually refer to the hormones E2, FSH and LH. E2 refers to estrogen, the main female reproductive hormone which is secreted from the ovary. FSH is the acronym for Follicle-Stimulating hormone. This hormone is released from the brain and stimulates the ovary to mature an egg. LH refers to ‘luteinizing hormone,’ which is integral in the final maturation and release of a mature follicle. We may also draw some additional hormone levels (thyroid, and prolactin) to assess general health and cycle regularity.
As I always tell my patients – we will not, when dealing with infertility, have a diagnosis and “cure,” the testing gives us a direction to formulate a treatment plan to optimize the potential to become pregnant. Once your diagnosis is established, a treatment plan will be tailored to suit your personal situation. The recommended approach will depend on your age, diagnosis, the duration of infertility, any previous treatments, and your personal preferences.
Remember to always communicate with your physician, your nurse and any of our staff with questions and concerns along the way.
Technology within the fertility world has made great strides over the last 20 years and will continue to progress over the years to come. Our goal as doctors and scientists is to continue to provide improvements on old school techniques, like basal body temperature, to lead to higher success for you, our patients.