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What Is a Saliva Hormone Test?

Saliva hormone tests are cheaper and less invasive than blood tests.
Saliva hormone tests provide a noninvasive alternative to traditional blood tests.
While urine and saliva can be used for testing, they are not usually as accurate as blood testing.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2014
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A saliva hormone test is a laboratory test used to check hormone levels in saliva. Such tests can be offered in hospitals and clinics and there are also home tests available. Some caution is advised with saliva hormone testing because not all tests are created equal and these tests are not designed for home treatment and diagnosis. People who have hormone abnormalities should be treated by an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in treating disorders relating to the endocrine system.

Saliva, like other body fluids, contains trace amounts of hormones. Blood tests are usually regarded as the gold standard of hormone testing because they provide highly accurate information about hormone levels at a given point in time. Urine and saliva can be used for testing, but they are not always accurate. The results of a saliva hormone test are generally not used to do things like adjusting medication regimens, but can be used for quick assessments and ongoing monitoring of patients.

One situation where a saliva hormone test is actually preferred to a blood test is in diagnosis of patients with Cushing's syndrome, an endocrine condition that causes overproduction of cortisol. A salivary cortisol test may be performed using a saliva sample from the evening, when cortisol levels should be low. If the test reveals high levels, it is a sign that the patient is making too much cortisol and that the body's circadian rhythms have been disrupted.

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In a saliva hormone test, a sample of saliva is taken with a probe or swab. The saliva sample can be tested for levels of common hormones. It is important to be aware that all hormone tests provide a snapshot, not definitive information about hormone levels, because hormones fluctuate over the day and over time. Multiple tests may be needed to collect an array of data and because test results can vary, it is important to use a consistent testing method so that results can be compared.

If a saliva hormone test is recommended, there are some advantages for the patient. Such tests are cheaper than blood tests and they are also less invasive. Results can be obtained quickly and in some settings a quick reading with a saliva hormone test may be appropriate for patient treatment and care. Patients should be aware that kits sold over the counter are of variable quality and may not provide consistent and reliable results, even when used as directed.

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ElizaBennett
Post 3

@Kat919 - It's also possible sometimes to predict ovulation without using fertility tests. The Fertility Awareness Method, which involves monitoring your cervical fluid and possible the shape and firmness of your cervix, is free, requires no special equipment, and can give you just as much warning.

If you have an abnormal cervix, maybe because of a cervical biopsy or other medical treatment, it might not work well for you, and then the monitors could be a great alternative. But I would encourage trying the free option first!

Kat919
Post 2

@MrsWinslow - My understanding is that the home saliva hormone tests give you a lot more warning that ovulation is coming as opposed to the urine tests.

They test for different hormones. The urine tests are, I believe, designed to detect a surge in luteinizing hormone that occurs a day or two before ovulation. It lasts only about twenty-four hours or so, so it's actually possible to mis the surge altogether even if you test every day. And it just tells you that it is almost too late! Because by the time you get the spike, ovulation may already be taking place, or will very soon. And when is the best time to have sex? The day *before* the surge!

The saliva monitors, on the other hand, are designed to detect an increase in estrogen, which is more gradual. They give more like five to seven days' warning, which obviously gives you a lot more time to, ahem, attempt conception.

MrsWinslow
Post 1

I've also heart of saliva tests being used to predict ovulation. Do those work better than the standard urine test strip ovulation predictor tests that you can get at the drug store? I've been trying to conceive for quite a while and I'm wondering if one of the saliva tests would be worth the investment. they are definitely more expensive.

Obviously, most of us would rather spit in a cup than pee in a cup, but are there any other advantages?

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