Being sexually active means making responsible choices about every aspect of your sexual and reproductive health. For many women, sexual activity automatically equates to using a contraceptive method to control when – or if – pregnancy will occur. At Fleur Women’s Health in Rancho Mirage, CA, we believe in patient education so women can make informed decisions about their contraceptive choices, from birth control to the basal body temperature method.
Does Birth Control Affect Basal Body Temperature?
Yes, taking birth control will affect your basal body temperature by marginally elevating your temperature throughout the month, rather than in cycles that reflect your ovulation like women who are not on birth control.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll be walking around with a fever for as long as you’re on birth control, but you might find that you “run hot” or endure some side effects of birth control, such as hot flashes, or you are more prone to sweating beneath the arms.
Why Does Birth Control Raise Body Temperature?
Birth control uses hormones to regulate the menstrual cycle and prevent pregnancy. However, the hormones in birth control do not only affect your reproductive organs. Because of the way some hormones are synthesized, certain steroid hormones (like estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol) are sensitive enough to birth control that they are stimulated to increase production.
Steroid hormones regulate various bodily functions, such as sleep, hunger, metabolism, and the immune system. Steroid hormones also determine our body temperature in relation to all of these functions, which is part of the reason why our temperatures rise when our immune systems are fighting infection. In the same way, women experience elevated temperatures during their fertility period, as well as a result of taking birth control pills.
Is Elevated Body Temperature Bad for Your Health?
Slightly elevated body temperature as a result of birth control does not pose a direct threat to your health. However, you may be more sensitive to this side effect than other women and may not appreciate the hot flashes or other symptoms. Overall, a slightly higher body temperature is not harmful.
Is Birth Control Safe?
Birth control is one of the most effective forms of contraceptive and can be used for medical purposes, such as regulating periods or resolving heavy menstrual bleeding. Birth control is deemed a safe option for most women. However, birth control does pose its own risks – for example, your risk of cervical cancer will increase while you are on birth control. Birth control will also not protect you from the transmission of sexual diseases.
What Is Basal Body Temperature?
Your basal body temperature is your body temperature when you first wake up in the morning before rising and movement will increase your body temperature through blood circulation. You can think of basal body temperature as your baseline temperature for the day.
The average baseline body temperature for women who are not ovulating is between 97°F (36.1°C) and 97.5°F (36.4°C). During and after ovulation, this temperature will increase between 97.6°F (36.4°C) to 98.6°F (37°C).
What Else Can Affect Body Temperature?
In addition to birth control, there are several other factors that can affect your baseline body temperature. For example, being stressed either mentally or physically can cause your temperature to increase. Sleeping too little, too much, or with too many interruptions can also increase your baseline temperature. Your diet, alcohol consumption, and lifestyle factors, such as exercise and traveling, are also important factors to consider.
Why Does Basal Temperature Matter?
Of course, while there are many things that can increase your baseline body temperature, for women there are two reasons why these increases may matter. The first is gynecological disorders, such as irregular menstrual cycles, which can cause erratic basal temperatures throughout the month as hormones continue to fluctuate outside of a regular cycle.
Your basal temperature may also matter if you are actively trying to become pregnant or trying to prevent pregnancy. In fact, some women base their entire contraceptive plans off basal temperature measurements. This is called the Temperature Method.
What Is the Temperature Method?
The Temperature Method is a contraceptive plan based on the pivot of basal body temperature during the ovulation and fertility cycles. This method is predicated on the scientific fact that a woman’s highest baseline body temperature coincides with when she is most fertile each month.
To use the Temperature Method, a woman must first record a month of her baseline temperatures on a graph after taking her temperature each morning; the following month, that graph can be compared and the woman can then pin-point her most fertile period, or when she is most likely to become pregnant. By using her temperature as a guide, a woman can avoid sexual activity or use a barrier contraceptive to prevent pregnancy, or intentionally engage in sexual activity to become pregnant during this time.
When Temperature Is Lowest
A woman will have consistently lower body temperature during the first half of her menstrual cycle, during the timeframe when she is not fertile or ovulating. This is called the follicular phase and can be thought of as your normal baseline for all of your body functions that would otherwise be affected by hormonal fluctuations.
Your temperature will lower a tiny bit more on the day your ovary releases an egg. When your temperature is at its lowest point is when you are the most fertile, though you may become pregnant while you are still ovulating, of course.
When Temperature Is Highest
About 24 hours after your ovary has released your egg, your temperature will increase for the second half of your menstrual cycle. Your temperature during this time will remain consistently higher than normal by about one or two degrees, depending on what your baseline is. Your temperature will remain higher, somewhere between 97°F and 99°F for the duration of your ovulation, and then will return to your baseline when you start your period.
How This Works With Contraceptives
Generally speaking, you cannot use the Temperature Method with any hormonal contraceptive method, largely because hormonal contraceptives like birth control can directly impact your baseline temperature and make charting your temperature greatly inaccurate. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have access to other contraceptives when you are using the Temperature Method.
To engage in sexual activity without the risk of becoming pregnant while you are using the Temperature Method, your best bet is to rely on barrier contraceptives, such as condoms. Barrier methods are the most effective way of preventing pregnancy and can be safely combined with the Temperature Method without affecting your baseline temperature.
Benefits of the Temperature Method
The Temperature Method certainly has its advantages. For example, one of the strongest points of this method is the fact that it raises fertility awareness and helps a woman become more knowledgeable about her own body. In addition to this mindfulness, the other benefits of this treatment include:
Natural, No Hormones, and No Side Effects
This is a natural method, which means it uses no hormones to prevent pregnancy. Because there are no hormones involved, there are no side effects. This is sometimes especially important for women who are on certain medications that have negative interactions with birth control, such as psychotropic medications.
May Help With Family Planning
The Temperature Method is a great help for couples who are trying to become pregnant. Whether you are trying to become pregnant naturally or using fertility treatments, the Temperature Method will be able to help you better track when you are most fertile and increase your likelihood of becoming pregnant.
This is also a low-cost contraceptive option. Unlike birth control, which must be paid for every month and is sometimes not covered by certain health insurance plans, the Temperature Method only requires one purchase of a basal body temperature thermometer. A basal thermometer is one that has two decimal points and has a more accurate reading.
Disadvantages of the Temperature Method
There are also disadvantages to the Temperature Method that might mean it’s not the right choice for you. For example, the Temperature Method is not adequate protection against sexually transmitted diseases and cannot be used to regulate menstrual cycles. Other disadvantages of this contraceptive method include:
Not 100% Effective Preventing Pregnancy
About 1 in 4 women who use the Temperature Method end up pregnant within one year, which means it’s not a conducive method for preventing pregnancy unless it is also combined with barrier contraceptives. This might be a huge drawback for women who want to use a natural contraceptive for pregnancy prevention.
Must Be Done Consistently
This method is also only successful if the basal temperature is graphed correctly and consistently. Just like with any other contraceptive method, there is no such thing as “skipping a day”, because a single skipped day could throw off the accuracy of your calculations.
Not for Everyone
This method may also not be right for everyone, particularly those who have gynecological health concerns, such as amenorrhea, or women who are peri-menopausal and undergoing drastic hormonal fluctuations. If you have any menstrual irregularities, this method is likely not right for you, as any persistent and irregular change in your hormones will create false data on your basal graphing.
How Do You Know Which Contraceptive Method Is Best for You?
The question of which contraceptive method is best for you is one that women face every day. There are many different contraceptives to choose from, such as birth control pills, patches, rings, IUDs, and implants, as well as barrier methods like condoms, sponges, diaphragms, and cervical caps. You will likely need a consultation to determine which method is right for you.
Your consultation will consist of an appointment where we will discuss the details of your gynecological health and sexual activity. Information about your current medications, your period regularity, and your level of sexual activity will provide us with vital information we need to determine the best contraceptive method for you.
If you are intent on using the Temperature Method for your contraceptive care, or as a fertility treatment to become pregnant, will likely focus on additional factors, such as:
- Family planning
- Menstrual regularity
- Medication and illness
Each of these factors will determine if using your basal temperature as a contraceptive method is ideal for your needs, lifestyle, and reproductive health. In particular, it will be important for us to determine if you have any menstrual dysfunctions, are taking certain medications (such as thyroid medications) consistently, or if you have any chronic illnesses that might make this method less effective for preventing pregnancy.
Discuss Your Contraceptive Options at Fleur Women’s Health Today!
In the end, the most responsible thing you can do for your reproductive health and wellbeing is to speak with a professional gynecological practitioner to determine which contraceptive option is ideal for your individual needs and goals. Contact Fleur Women’s Health in Rancho Mirage, CA to schedule your first appointment today!