October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. Is there anything you can do to help identify potential concerns in early pregnancy as someone who charts their cycle? Well, charting your cycle - especially your basal body temperature (BBT) - can help you identify potential concerns in early pregnancy before they become serious problems. This means you can bring those concerns up with your doctor very early - or even discuss them as you’re still trying to conceive.
To understand what you can monitor early in your pregnancy or as you’re trying to get pregnant, you first need to understand the luteal phase and progesterone. The luteal phase is the portion of the cycle starting right after ovulation, and continuing through the end of the cycle - or leading into a positive pregnancy test. During this time, progesterone is your dominant hormone. If we break the word apart, it becomes pro-gesterone or pro-gestation. Progesterone is key to every pregnancy through the duration, but it’s especially important during the first few weeks of pregnancy.
Luteal Phase Length
Healthy luteal phase length is incredibly important to being able to have a viable pregnancy. Generally, a luteal phase of at least 10 days is necessary in order to sustain pregnancy. Otherwise, you may experience a “chemical pregnancy” - a pregnancy where you may test positive, but an ultrasound wouldn’t be able to detect your baby yet. Or you may not be able to sustain a pregnancy long enough to even get a positive test.
This can be an incredibly hard experience for anyone, especially because it has the possibility of taking months to understand this through tests at your doctor’s office. Understanding your standard luteal phase length is incredibly important as you’re trying to conceive, and charting your cycle gives you that data after just one to two cycles. This means you can take the information to your doctor sooner to come up with a plan to lengthen your luteal phase and sustain a pregnancy.
While harder to understand a full picture through charting, you may also be able to identify low progesterone levels on your chart. Once again, you’ll be looking at the luteal phase - or the portion after ovulation. If your temperature in your luteal phase stays close to your coverline, this may indicate low progesterone.
It is important to note Tempdrop alone cannot create this diagnosis! But a pattern of temperatures near the coverline very well may help you bring enough data to your doctor to at least test your progesterone levels.
Low progesterone is a problem because without enough progesterone, you won’t be able to sustain a pregnancy. Progesterone is produced by the copus luteum (part of the ovary) in early pregnancy - up until you’re about 7-9 weeks pregnant. At that point, the placenta is formed enough to start taking over the job, and progesterone may pick up on its own. The good thing is supplementing progesterone has a great success rate in avoiding spontaneous miscarriage if you do have low progesterone!
So - charting can help you understand your progesterone better! And understanding your progesterone is incredibly important to a successful pregnancy.