While social media and Dr Google have transformed the degree of awareness women have around fertility tracking and body awareness, they are also forums for potential misinformation. Facts, not followers, are what create true empowerment. What do you need to know?
My fertility journey began not too long ago when there were only a handful of apps (okay, maybe only 2), allowing me to manually enter my basal body temperature (BBT) and when intercourse occurred. There were no reminders, no tips, no questions asking how I was feeling. I’m not even kidding - I walked around with paper charts proudly showing them to my acupuncturist and fertility doctors. Because of these limitations, I became educated in the old fashioned way - reading. Toni Weschler’s book, Taking Charge of your Fertility, is the gold standard for helping women to understand their bodies’ basic functions so they can better interpret the incredible value of fertility tracking apps like OvuSense.
As a result of what I experienced and have since seen repeated with other women’s struggles, I created a women’s health podcast, Fempower Health, with over two dozen women’s health expert guests to date. I advocate for all women’s health topics ensuring women access the right information to optimally advocate for themselves.
Ladies, we have come a long way in women’s health, but we have a long way to go.
Here are three areas to be mindful of as you track your cycle.
1. Start with the Right Perspective
Be Proactive, but Patient, with Tracking
I see time and time again women posting BBT charts on Facebook concerned about whether they ovulated or if their app is working. Remember, the BBT tracking alone shows ovulation after the thermal shift, while Core Body Temperature (CBT) can alert you earlier in your cycle. The only way to know about ovulation in advance is via a change in cervical mucus and cervix position. However, egg white cervical mucus is driven by an estrogen surge, which may happen in absence of ovulation. Additionally, women who had cryosurgery or cone biopsies may not produce cervical fluid. As a result, apps, like OvuSense, focus on your unique temperature pattern and often improve as they begin to learn your cycle indicators.
Your BBT Chart Tells you More Than “You Ovulated”
The day we call these apps “women’s health tracking” instead of “fertility tracking,” is the day I know women’s health is transforming in the right direction. Yes, a woman’s body is made to create babies. While not every woman wants a baby, a normal menstrual cycle is one indication of overall health. Trends in BBT charts can provide experts clues should a cycle be off.
I like that OvuSense – which measures Core Body Temperature – is appropriate for women with PCOS, because not all cycle tracking apps can support women with this condition. Other information your chart can help you understand includes potential reason for mid-cycle spotting, thyroid problems, or potential miscarriage.
2.What to Know When Working with your Doctor
Most Doctors Have not Been Trained on Cycle Tracking
I still remember visiting what was probably the 5th reproductive endocrinologist on my fertility journey. He was at a prominent clinic, and I was so proud to share my BBT charts. I pulled them out of my bag and before I could hand them to him, he said, “I don’t need those. I already know what I need to do for you.” Before I go on, I must share that I never went back to that clinic.
I share this story because I soon learned from several experts that few, if any, doctors are even trained on cycle tracking. It seems to be something functional medicine practitioners and acupuncturists tend to be trained on.
I was happy to see OvuSense develop the “pro” version, further enabling doctor-patient conversations. Avenues that enable this dialogue are critical.
What does this mean for you?
Your Doctor is Your Consultant
Doctors I interviewed on my podcast range from Alyson McGregor, who wrote Sex Matters: How Male-Centric Medicine Endangers Women's Health—and What We Can Do About It, whose TED Talk has over 1.5 million downloads, to Dr Lora Shahine, a reproductive endocrinologist and author of Not Broken: An Approachable Guide to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss. The repeated quote I hear is “gone are the days of doctor knows best.” They implore women to get informed about their bodies because each person is unique. Then leverage the doctor as a consultant, who is trained on the science, and ultimately create a partnership for decision-making. This applies regardless of who is on your team - OB GYN, REI, acupuncturist, functional medicine practitioner, or someone else.
3. Have a Balanced Perspective
Be Careful with Comparisons
It thrills me to see women sharing their temperature charts and stories. However, please know that the information you read is simply that - information. Think of it as another data point to remind you to keep tracking. Outside of fundamentals such as the range of days for a healthy menstrual cycle, range for healthy period flow,
or the types of hormones that rise and fall in a given cycle, the rest means something different for each woman.
One woman’s faint positive pregnancy test can be a chemical pregnancy while another’s mean it is an early sign of a pregnancy that goes full term. One woman’s unclear cCBT chart could be the first cycle on OvuSense and it turns out the next day she ovulated but forgot to post or it could be her 10th cycle using an app and she has PCOS so her cycles are long.
There are No Quick Fixes
As shared in the documentary, Social Dilemma on Netflix, the information in our social media feed is based on SEO and algorithms. An individual’s post is only a snapshot. None of us know what happens behind the scenes. I can assure you this - if anyone promises a quick fix, run. The way to achieve your health goal is to be informed and do what is right for you.
I hear you. I was you. 48 times, as a matter of fact. After my son, 12 more times. I did IVF and IUI. I froze eggs and embryos. I did fresh and frozen cycles. I tried acupuncture, a Shaman, and mineral baths. I took breaks. I changed my diet. I Googled “signs of early pregnancy” till midnight.
If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be look within, pause, and listen. Your body knows exactly what to do and if you make the space to listen, you will know.
Share. Learn. More importantly, know YOUR body and always evaluate the information on social media. Be informed about the facts below as you embark on your ‘tracking journey.” Like me, many women become really informed about their body once they struggle to conceive. My wish is we all know this information regardless of whether we want to be a parent.
About Georgie Kovacs and Fempower Health
Georgie is the founder and host of the Fempower Health podcast, a top 10 women’s health podcast with 5 stars on Apple. She is an advocate leveraging her 20+ years in healthcare and personal fertility journey to transform women’s healthcare, answering your health questions. She brings on top experts in women’s health with the aim of educating women about their bodies to have more empowered (and speedy) health journeys.
Follow Fempower Health on Instagram for the latest in women’s health.