I tried tracking my fertility using the saliva method– here’s what I learned

Emma Harpham in partnership with OvuScope™  |   5 Nov 2023

Have you tried a saliva fertility test?

Here at team TRB, we’re a little bit obsessed with cycle tracking and trying out new ways to understand what our hormones are up to. 

We’ve all got different fertility goals right now, but we know that our cycle health underpins so much of our whole body health too – and knowing what’s normal as well as keeping on top of little changes each month is just really handy.

Here’s what happened when Emma, our Junior Writer, tried tracking her fertility using just her saliva for two cycles. Spoiler alert – it’s a bit of a game-changer.

What on earth is a saliva ovulation test?

This was my first question when I found out that there was a way to learn more about my cycle that I hadn’t tried yet!

A quick bit about me – I’m 27 and have a pretty regular cycle, which I’m used to tracking by measuring my basal body temperature (BBT) and keeping an eye on my cervical mucus.

I’m not currently trying to conceive (TTC), but I’m really keen to build the best basis for getting to that place. The idea of a saliva fertility test really intrigued me – I haven’t seen anything like it, so far.

I’d usually place my ovulation as happening around cycle day 16 with the fertility tracking methods I’m currently using. I’ve had new and different symptoms popping up around this time lately though, so learning more about what’s going on during my fertile window massively appealed. 

Ovuscope saliva ovulation test with microscope

The OvuScope™ saliva ovulation test focuses on pinpointing your most fertile days. It’s a neat mini microscope which needs just a simple dab of saliva from your tongue to give you an accurate predictor of when your ovulation may occur.

Before you dive in – you can order your saliva fertility test and get $10 OFF plus a free Microfiber Cloth in a Convenient Pouch ($8 value) with code: RIBBONBOX

How does it work?

Like me, you might only just be hearing about this – but the science behind the OvuScope™ saliva ovulation test has been around for a long time.

It works off the simple premise that during our fertile phases, our estrogen levels rise, leading to an increase in the salt content of our saliva. This heightened salt concentration results in unique crystallization patterns, often referred to as “ferning” due to their resemblance to fern leaves. 

By examining saliva samples under microscopes in laboratories, medical researchers have demonstrated that these ferning patterns become increasingly pronounced with rising fertility levels. And if you’re TTC, you’ll know it’s key to keep track of if/when you’re in your fertile window, so you can try at the best possible time.

Designed by their woman-led engineering team and tested with an OBGYN, the OvuScope™ saliva fertility test lets you view your own fertile ferning patterns at home, using their portable, lab-grade mini microscope and reusable slides. 

Anyone can use it – just double-check with your provider if you’re taking medication that might affect your estrogen levels. And as it turned out, it’s pretty much as easy as it sounds.

Getting started with the OvuScope™

I started testing my saliva from day one of my cycle, so that’s period day one. The box comes with the mini microscope, plus five reusable sample slides and some really honest and clear instructions, so I had everything I needed to get going and establish a little routine right away. 

I tested every day of my first cycle. I had to make sure the slide I wanted to use was clean, rinse my mouth with water, and wait 10 minutes. 

Then, it was a matter of dabbing my saliva onto the square portion of the slide with my tongue and waiting 20 minutes for it to fully dry.

Popping the slide into the base of the microscope was straightforward. From there you turn on the microscope light, twist the wheel to focus on the square edge of the slide, and adjust the slide’s position to look for ferning.

Afterwards, all you need to do to care for the slides is rinse them using a tiny bit of mild soap, and let air dry. 

The testing process – notes and wins

The OvuScope™ saliva fertility test is really easy once you’ve got the hang of things, but I’ll admit it took me a full cycle. Here are my top tips for getting it right.

  • Don’t eat, drink alcohol or brush your teeth before taking your sample. Water is fine though, and I actually found that rinsing my mouth with water and waiting 15 minutes before testing gave me the best result. But if you’re doing any of the above, it can cause your sample to return a false positive, and see ferning even when you’re not fertile.
  • Monitor the amount of saliva you’re using. It took me a few goes to figure out, but really, less is more here. You can get a false negative if you use too much or too little, I found that collecting saliva in the front of my mouth and then using the tip of my tongue to lightly touch the indented square on the slides worked best. I also used a mirror to get my aim right in the beginning, as it’s a little hard to see the slide when you’re holding it up to your face!
  • Wait until it’s fully dry before checking. I found that my samples sometimes took longer than 10 mins to dry, and longer than 30 mins to see ferns developing. You’ll know your sample is completely dry when it goes cloudy. The great thing is you get five slides per pack, so I found that I could keep my samples for a couple of days in a row for comparison of my progress. I wouldn’t recommend keeping them in a humid bathroom, though.

My fertile ferning results, explained

The results speak (fern) for themselves! Here are my key ferning patterns, explained.

Cycle day 5: My period had literally just finished that morning, and I was feeling my usual energy levels returning.

I wasn’t noticing anything in my sample yet though – just a few small grainy bubbles.

This meant that I wasn’t approaching my fertile window yet and needed to continue to test daily. 

Ovuscope saliva fertility test fertile ferning

Cycle day 8: I started to notice some ferns appearing in the sample.

I remember thinking, have I done something wrong here? This feels way too early!

But this was a clear transitional ferning pattern, letting me know my estrogen is on the rise and to expect my fertile window soon. Impressive.

Ovuscope saliva fertility test fertile ferning on the rise

Cycle day 11: Peak ferning! I’d done it – and it’d happened a good few days earlier than I’d expected.

According to the OvuScope™ team, ovulation should occur 24-72 hours after this peak ferning pattern appears, so this really felt like an advanced warning system for the start of my fertile window!

Ovuscope saliva fertility test fertile ferning peak fern

The OvuScope™ team let me know that during and after my ovulation, it is likely that I wouldn’t see any ferning at all. And by cycle day 14, I was back to seeing blank slides. 

How do the saliva fertility test results compare?

Well, it turns out that I’m actually entering my fertile window sooner than I had previously thought – and ovulating around day 12, rather than day 16. Here’s how the results stack up compared to other at-home fertility tracking methods.

You’ll get results up to 24 hours sooner than LH urine tests

The OvuScope™ let me know that my fertility was on the rise – up to 24 hours sooner than your classic pee strip LH tests. Sure enough, I got a positive LH test a little over a day after I saw peak ferning. And if you don’t usually have much luck with these pee strips (I see you, PCOS girlies!) the OvuScope™ is a great choice, for this reason. 

I also found the OvuScope™ to be way less messy, and the microscope was small enough to pop in my bag and be used discreetly when on the go. No dashing to the office bathroom to awkwardly pee in a cup required!

Ovuscope saliva ovulation test compared to LH strip

And, importantly, the OvuScope™ is completely reusable. Each box comes with five durable slides, meaning that it’s a way more economical choice than LH strips which get bought and thrown away each month – another big ‘tick’ if you’re TTC.

Pair with basal body temperature tracking to help confirm ovulation

I’m a pretty big fan of BBT tracking. My sleep schedule is fairly predictable, and I’ve got my morning routine down to a T so that measuring comes naturally.

However, given that our BBT only spikes after we’ve ovulated, the OvuScope™ was really helpful for pinpointing the start of my fertile window – as well as highlighting peak fertility. 

Unlike the BBT method, you can use the OvuScope™ at any time of day (although I did prefer to use it in the mornings before I’d eaten breakfast). Another plus is that if you’re testing and unwell, your saliva will still show accurate ferning, unlike BBT tracking which becomes unreliable if you’ve got a temperature.

What’s my key takeaway?

If you’re currently TTC, of course you’re probably already using at least one of these methods to stay on top of things. And it can feel really, really hard at times. 

Incorporating the OvuScope™ saliva fertility test into our routines alongside basal body temperature tracking, urine ovulation test strips and cervical mucus charting feels like a pretty low-effort, low-stress way to get an even clearer picture of our fertile window, month on month. 

You can enter your ferning results into your regular period tracker (I use Cycles, but most apps have some sort of ‘daily note’ functionality) and think of it as an extra handy tool for advanced ovulation prediction, offering you more time to prepare and plan effectively. 

And, often, just having those few extra days head start can really make all the difference. One reviewer on the OvuScope website said: 

“This was my first cycle in six months, and I was getting a little tired of the ovulation strips. Two days after I got the scope, I saw ferning! And a day and a half later I got my positive LH surge. Well, it’s a few weeks later and we’re pregnant! We are still in shock, and I really think this helped us know our window sooner!”

Want to try the OvuScope™ ovulation test for yourself? Head over to order your test and get $10 OFF plus a free Microfiber Cloth in a Convenient Pouch ($8 value) with code: RIBBONBOX

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