Fertility, Ferning and the Saliva Ovulation Microscope

A woman is fertile for only a handful of days during each menstrual cycle. And because her egg has a short life-span of just a day, predicting ovulation is central to conception. In working with patients, there are a number of different methods and practices I recommend, including maintaining a daily fertility chart.

Fertility charting allows a woman to monitor her own reproductive wellness, help her understand the nuances of her own menstrual cycle, and to correctly identify when she is most likely to conceive. Looking at several physiological variables, a woman can learn to identify the days when she will most likely ovulate – the best time to conceive a baby.

As a daily part of fertility charting, I have come to ask many of my patients to include the use an ovulation microscope – a touchstone in predicting a woman’s most fertile time.

What is an Ovulation Microscope?
An ovulation microscope monitors and predicts fertility by detecting hormone changes that occur prior to and during ovulation. When a woman approaches her date of ovulation, she experiences a gradual increase in the hormone estrogen. This “estrogen surge” facilitates an increase of salinity in her saliva, which in turn produces qualitative changes in the structure of her saliva – the formation of distinct crystalline patterns often referred to as “ferns” or “ferning” – that can be viewed through an ovulation microscope. (see our selection: fertility monitors or by brand: Fertile Focus)

These crystal patterns, which in appearance emulate “frost on a windowpane” or the delicate fronds of a fern, indicate that an estrogen increase has occurred – a precursor to ovulation. With a positive result (or ferning pattern) ovulation is most likely to occur within 24 to 72 hours.

FAQ: How does the Saliva Ovulation Test work?
The Ovulation Microscope detects hormone changes that occur prior to and during ovulation. As estrogen increases, “ferning” or crystal patterns can be viewed in dried samples of saliva. These patterns indicate that ovulation is about to take place. The duration of your most fertile time lasts from several days before ovulation to 24 or so hours after ovulation. The duration of a woman’s fertile period is typically around six days, ending 24 hours following ovulation. Unlike urine LH tests, the Ovulation Microscope allows you to track fertility and your cycle changes. When you observe a positive result (crystal/ferning patterns), ovulation is likely to occur within 24 to 72 hours.

When do I test with the Ovulation Microscope?
Test on a daily basis and record results on a fertility chart or calendar. Test first thing in the morning – but never after eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth. These activities may interfere with results. If you test later in the day, try to wait at least two to three hours after eating or drinking.

Is the Ovulation Microscope accurate?
When instructions are followed, determining fertility through ovulation microscopy has been shown to be 98% accurate.

What is an “estrogen surge” or “estrogen spike”?
While estrogen is present in your body throughout your cycle, just prior to ovulation you may have an “estrogen surge” – a marked increase in the presence of estrogen. The increase of estrogen facilitates the ferning patterns in your saliva. An estrogen surge or ovulation may not occur in all cycles for all women.

Are ferning patterns observable at other times in my cycle?
A second second estrogen surge may occur right at the end of your cycle. By monitoring cycle length, and keeping daily results, the second surge should not be confounded with the estrogen surge preceding ovulation. Also, as different women produce differing levels of estrogen, ferning patterns may vary a bit in appearance and duration.

Can Ovulation Microscopes be used as a contraceptive device?
Ovulation microscopes should not be used as a contraceptive device.

How do I apply a saliva sample?
For best results, collect a sublingual saliva sample as saliva glands are located below the tongue. Pull (do not unscrew) the lens from the housing. Collect a dab of saliva and place it on the surface of the lens. Try to avoid making bubbles and allow the sample to dry for at least five minutes before attempting to read results. The sample must be dry for best results.

Will Clomid interfere with test results?
Clomid will not interfere with the Ovulation Microscope results, though it may intensify the appearance and duration of ferning. If you are taking Clomid, consult your physician for details.

Can I use the Ovulation Microscope if my cycle is irregular?
Yes, the Ovulation Microscope can be used by women with both regular and irregular cycles.

What are some tips for optimizing results?
Do not eat, drink, smoke, or brush teeth for at least 2-3 hours before taking the test. Apply sublingual saliva sample to the exterior lens. Always allow the saliva sample to dry, avoid air bubbles in the sample and Focus by turning the focalizable lens (remove eye-glasses).

What can interfere with results?
Pregnancy, menopause, or hormonal imbalance, supplemental estrogen, and recent discontinuation of birth control medication may interfere with results. In continued absence of any ferning, your body may not be producing sufficient estrogen. Consult your physician.

Can the Ovulation Scope be Used as a Pregnancy Test?
While sustained ferning patterns may appear as a result of pregnancy, the ovulation microscope is not designed to be a pregnancy test.

Using an ovulation microscope is relatively simple, and my patients adore the convenience and ease-of-use of this handy diagnostic device. In using the microscope, I ask my patients to test in the morning, before eating or brushing teeth or even drinking water. They simply collect a saliva sample (just a dab from below the tongue) and place it on the lens of the microscope. After a five minute “drying period”, they view the sample through the microscope and record the result on their fertility chart.

During the “transitional phase” (at the onset of the estrogen surge), my patients will see a mild or disconnected crystal-ferning pattern. This transitional phase can typically last a few days. Then, during a woman’s most fertile time of the month, a denser, intricate ferning pattern can be observed. With a positive result, ovulation will most likely take place within 72 hours.

What is most instructive – and fun – in using an ovulation microscope is the ability to monitor results over a patient’s entire menstrual cycle, observing the gradual changes in the structure of her saliva as she approaches ovulation. In fact, using an ovulation microscope is wonderful because it is precisely this gradual transformation in saliva patterns that provide an early alert to impending ovulation and fertility (something that urine-based LH tests do not provide). This early-alert feature of ovulation microscopy makes the microscope an especially invaluable tool for women with irregular cycles.

Even more important is the educational function of the ovulation microscope. Where an LH test functions like a light switch – either on or off – the ovulation microscope allows a woman to view the nuances and details of cycle changes. There is a dynamic quality to ovulation microscopy allows her to feel the rhythm of her cycle and better connect with her overall reproductive health and wellness.

While the ovulation microscope is not a new innovation, the popularity of this method of ovulation prediction has increased in the United States over the past several years. The research and clinical data behind ovulation microscopy has been around for a long time. In fact, clinical studies indicate that saliva ovulation predictors are a very accurate way to predict a woman’s most fertile time of the month. Many of my patients have found these easy-to-use, handheld microscopes to be wonderful addition to their daily charting routine. And more than one patient has attributed a successful pregnancy to this diagnostic device.

Scope FAQ and Article Courtesy of Fertile Focus.

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Ovulation Predictors