All About Ferning

Q. What is ferning?
A. Simply put, because of estrogen surges during your fertile phases, salt crystals appear in the saliva and cervical mucus. And, when viewed under a microscope, these crystals resemble fern leaves.

Q. How can I see ferning with Ovatel?
A. Ovatel is a mini-microscope. When using a microscope, you place the sample (in this case a saliva sample) to be viewed on a small slide. You then look through the lens and focus on the results. The advantage of Ovatel is that you do not need to turn knobs to focus on the slide. Instead, you move the lens containing the saliva closer to your eyes or further away to make the image clearer.

Q. Why is it difficult for me to see ferning using the mini-microscope?
A. Ovatel is a mini-microscope that is simple to use even if you have never liked biology class or used. It just takes a little practice.

Here are three tips for successful use:

  1. Place the tiny drop of saliva sample in the center of the lens. (the actual size of the drop is 1mm by 1mm)
  2. Point the slide directly into a bright light. Tilt the lens very slightly in different directions to focus.
  3. Look through the lens and interpret what you see.

Q. I see ferning at random times during my cycle.
A. There are several reasons why you might see ferning at random times during your cycle. They include:

  1. You tested too soon after eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth.
  2. You are taking certain medications that may cause ferning.
  3. You are pregnant.
  4. You are a smoker; smoking causes ferning.
  5. You may have a hormone imbalance (see hormone imbalance below) or you could be pregnant.

Q. I see ferning close to the date of my period.
A. Most women will have a slight estrogen surge a day or so before their period, thereby causing them to see some ferning.

Q. I never see ferning during my cycle.
A. If you never see ferning it means that you are not using the Ovatel mini-microscope correctly; or you may have a hormone imbalance which is leading to your body not producing enough estrogen (see hormone imbalance below) or you are not ovulating. If your doctor has confirmed that you do not have a hormone imbalance, please contact us on how to use the Ovatel unit.

Q. I see ferning all the time. Why?
A. Some women will see ferning everyday because their estrogen level remains slightly high all month long. One reason for this could be that the body is not producing enough progesterone. If you think this might apply to you, please consult your health care professional for hormone testing (see hormone imbalance below) or you could be pregnant.

Q. I saw ferning during my ovulation period then it disappeared for more than five days, but now the ferning has reappeared and continues every day. What does this mean?
A. This is actually a good thing. During your ovulation period, your estrogen levels increase which causes you to see ferning using Ovatel. Once your ovulation period is over, the ferns disappear and you will see dots. If you become pregnant, your body starts producing estrogen once again to support the growth of the fetus and you will see ferning while using Ovatel. If you see ferning reappear after approximately five days and the ferning does not go away, there is a possibility you could be pregnant.

Q. My husband tried Ovatel and he saw ferning. Why?
A. There are several reasons why men might see ferning:

  1. Performing the Ovatel saliva test too soon after eating or drinking may cause men to see ferning.
  2. Certain medications may cause someone to see ferning.
  3. Estrogen dominance (view below for more details) may cause men to see ferning.
  4. Men who smoke will see ferning.

Q. Will all women’s fern/crystal-like patterns look the same when using Ovatel?
A. No. Every woman will produce estrogen in different amounts and each fern pattern is different — much like a snowflake. The fern pattern cannot be mistaken. Once you’ve seen the ferns for the first time, you will immediately be able to recognize them again.

Q. How long before the fern pattern will disappear off the slide?
A. If the slide is kept in a dry environment, the fern pattern can stay for many months. If the slide is kept in a humid environment, the fern pattern can disappear rather quickly.

Ferning Explained

SymptomPossible Cause
I never see ferning when I use Ovatel.
  1. You are not using Ovatel correctly.
  2. You are not producing enough estrogen.
I see ferning at random times during my cycle.
  1. You tested too soon after eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth.
  2. You are taking certain medication that may cause ferning.
  3. You are pregnant.
  4. Smoking can cause ferning.
  5. You may have a hormone imbalance.
I see ferning a day or two before my period.Most women will have a slight estrogen surge a day or so before their period, thereby causing them to see some ferning.
I see ferning All the time.
  1. High level of estrogen in body all the time.  View hormone imbalance
  2. Many full time smokers experience constant ferning.
My husband can see ferning.
  1. He tested to soon after eating, drinking, or brushing his teeth.
  2. He is taking certain medication that causes ferning.
  3. Estrogen dominance (view hormone imbalance)
  4. He is a smoker.
I saw ferning during my ovulation period then it went away and now 5 days later it’s back and won’t stop.
  1. You may be pregnant.

Medical Research

Researchers have been examining the phenomenon of “Ferning” since 1945, when Papanicolau observed microscopic crystal formations in cervical fluid (cervical mucus). Subsequent researchers have studied the ferning of other body fluids, including saliva.

In 1969, Dr. Biel Cassals, a Spanish gynecologist, studied the crystallization of saliva. His presentation to the Barcelona Medical Board regarded the relationship between hormonal changes during the female menstrual cycle and the crystallization of saliva, indicating that the ferning saliva is virtually identical in appearance to the arborization effect of cervical fluid. His findings were put into used in 1971 when he developed a microscope intended to test for ferning in saliva. His clinical experiments involved a number of physicians testing the apparatus for approximately 10 months on a group of 1,000 women. These women used the saliva test as a method to ascertain when they were fertile. According to Biel Cassals, this method’s success rate was around 96.2%.

A study conducted in 1991 (M. Guida) at the Institute of Gynecology and Obstetrics Clinic in Napoli, Italy, achieved a positive result in 92% of the cases studied, matching salivary ferning to the fertile preovulatory and ovulatory period. Parameters recorded included basal temperature, subjective sensation of the mucus at the level of the vulva, characteristics of cervical fluid, abdominal and/or lumbar painfulness, and echographic proof of ovulation.

A further study conducted in 1992 in Milan, Italy (M. Barbato, A. Pandolfi) and Naples, Italy, (M. Guida) examined the use-effectiveness of salivary ferning as a diagnostic testing aid to natural family planning. This study used the PG/53 pocket microscope. They concluded that there is a direct correlation between salivary ferning and the fertile period. Their conclusion clearly stated that “Salivary Ferning” may be used as a new parameter to aid women to detect the fertile period in combination with other sympto-thermal methods of ovulation detection. The ferning event began on average about 7* days before the first day of basal body temperature rise. In general, salivary ferning was seen to begin 1 to 2 days before the onset of wet cervical fluid.

In 1992 a study involving 300 women from and IVF (in vitro fertilization) program was created at the 2nd Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Patients were instructed in the use of a hand held microscope to observe salivary ferning. In all of the patients, the cycle was stimulated by means of clomiphene citrate/CC/Gravosan Spofa/and hMG/Pergonal Serono/. Follicular growth was monitored with a 7 MHz US vaginal sound/kretz/. Serum 17 beta oestradiol and LH levels were evaluated daily by radio-immune methods. Basal temperature was also recorded daily. This study found a definite correlation between oestrogen activity and crystallization of saliva, between LH curve and crystallization of saliva and between follicular growth and crystallization of saliva. The study classified reliability as “very high level”, and claimed that combining the sympto-thermal method with the microscope method resulted in a 99% reliabiltiy rate.

We strongly agree with those researchers who have shown the value of ferning as a means to help predict ovulation.

2015 German Research Study

Click on the title to read the more recent study

Disclaimer: We are not, nor do we claim to be, medical professionals. Any opinions on this page or within this website are just that (opinions). If you are in need of professional medical advice, please consult your doctor.