The basal body temperature method — a fertility awareness-based method — is a type of natural family planning. Your basal body temperature is your temperature when you’re fully at rest. Ovulation may cause a slight increase in basal body temperature.
You’ll be most fertile during the two to three days before your temperature rises. By tracking your basal body temperature each day, you may be able to predict when you’ll ovulate. In turn, this may help you determine when you’re most likely to conceive.
If you’re hoping to get pregnant, you can use the basal body temperature method to determine the best days to have sex. Similarly, if you’re hoping to avoid pregnancy, you can use the basal body temperature method to help determine which days to avoid unprotected sex.
Because the basal body temperature method alone doesn’t provide enough warning time to effectively prevent pregnancy, it’s generally used in combination with other fertility awareness-based methods if you’re hoping to avoid pregnancy.
Why it’s done
Basal body temperature can be used as a way to predict fertility or as a part of a method of contraception, by helping you gauge the best days to have or avoid unprotected sex. Tracking your basal body temperature for either fertility or contraception is inexpensive and doesn’t have any side effects. Some women may choose to use the basal body temperature method for religious reasons.
The basal body temperature methods can also be used to detect pregnancy. Following ovulation, a rise in basal body temperature that lasts for 18 or more days may be an early indicator of pregnancy.
The basal body temperature methods is often combined with another method of natural family planning, such as the cervical mucus method. This combination is sometimes referred to as the symptothermal method.
Using the basal body temperature method to promote fertility doesn’t pose any risks.
Likewise, using the basal body temperature methods for birth control doesn’t pose any direct risks, but it doesn’t offer protection from sexually transmitted infections — and it’s one of the least effective natural family planning methods. As many as 24 out of 100 women who use fertility awareness-based methods to prevent pregnancy — such as the basal body temperature method — for one year will get pregnant.
Using the basal body temperature along with another fertility awareness-based method for birth control requires motivation and diligence. If you don’t want to conceive, you and your partner must avoid having sex or use a barrier method of contraception during your fertile days each month.
Keep in mind that your basal body temperature can be influenced by many factors, including:
- Illness or fever
- Shift work
- Interrupted sleep cycles or oversleeping
- Travel and time zone differences
- Gynecologic disorders
- Certain medications
Some women also ovulate without a clear rise in basal body temperature.
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