Few things are more complicated than trying to conceive a child. It may feel like it’s easy when you compare yourself to your friends, or those ‘happy little surprises’, but there’s a lot more to it! Everything from menstrual cycles to diet, age, and general lifestyles can make a difference – as well as those little swimmers.
So, how long can sperm live? And is there anything we can do to give ourselves a more ‘hospitable environment’?
In this article: 📝
- How long does male sperm survive? The facts
- How long can sperm live inside the body?
- How long will sperm wait for an egg?
- Can I get pregnant even if…
- We’re here for you!
How long does male sperm survive? The facts
The lifecycle of a sperm (or spermatozoa, if we’re being technical) depends entirely on the environment it’s exposed to. First of all, let’s cover exactly what happens when those little guys leave your partner’s body.
Every time your sexual partner ejaculates, up to 200 million sperm cells leave the body. These swimmers are combined with a fluid called seminal plasma, and together, they make up semen. Despite the millions of sperm cells in this fluid, they only make up about 5% of the fluid itself, while 80% is water.
How long does sperm live outside the body?
As sperm is primarily made up of water, plasma, and mucus, and one of the biggest dangers to sperm lifecycles is ‘drying up’. As soon as a sperm cell is exposed to air, it’s likely to dry up, so if said cells are landing anywhere other than inside an environment where they can be kept moist and viable – such as the vagina – they’re likely to die.
Of course, there are other situations where sperm can still fertilize an egg without being inside a vagina. For example, if you’re going through IVF, then sperm can last in an incubator for around 72 hours. Obviously, this is kept under very strict conditions such as mimicking the body temeperature and environment, to protect sperm quality.
Likewise, some men may choose to freeze their sperm, in which case, it can be stored for decades in liquid nitrogen.
How long can sperm live inside the body?
Conception is not easy to get right – and this is partly down to the delicate pH balances in the vagina. Contrary to popular belief, the vagina itself is not actually a naturally ‘welcoming’ environment for sperm. It has a low pH to protect itself from pathogens transmitted through sex.
However, when a male ejaculates inside the vagina, these pH levels rise, making the conditions easier for sperm to move around. Likewise, the moist environment prevents semen from drying out, helping to prolong sperm life.
Can sperm live 5 or 7 days?
Generally speaking, sperm can survive inside the vagina for up to five days. This is why it’s so important to practice regular sex during ovulation, to increase your chances of conception.
Remember, the sperm has to make a pretty treacherous journey after your man has done the deed. It needs to swim through the cervix, into the uterus, through the fallopian tubes and into an egg. Each fallopian tube is around four to five inches long, whereas a singular sperm cell is 0.002 inches. It’s no wonder so few survive!
Can sperm live up to 7 days?
If you’re trying to conceive and you’re really lucky, you might even hear of sperm living for up to seven days. Part of this comes down to the conditions of the vagina itself.
When you ovulate, your cervical mucus changes. If you’re in your fertile stage, this becomes a little creamier in consistency, which can help sperm motility. Time your conception right and your man’s little men might be aided by this mucus – or they may hang around long enough for your ovulation to kick in.
Every man and woman is different, so don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t happen straight away. Likewise, don’t be shocked if you thought you weren’t ovulating and then get a little surprise – your man may have had some of the longer-lasting swimmers!
How long will sperm wait for an egg?
While it’s a nice idea to picture sperm waiting for an egg, it doesn’t quite work like that! If the sperm does make it to the egg itself, it takes about 24 hours for the two cells to join. During this time, the sperm penetrates the egg’s surface. This surface of the egg then hardens so that no other sperms can enter it – paving the way for the development of your baby boy or girl.
Can I get pregnant even if…
You might be thinking of many other scenarios where sperm might meet the egg, beyond the ‘traditional.’ So, do sperm die in these situations? Let’s dispel a few myths:
You cannot get pregnant if you swallow your partner’s sperm. The only way you can conceive a child is if sperm enters the vagina and meets an egg.
Technically, you could get pregnant after anal sex if your partner’s sperm leaks into your vagina. It’s far less likely than vaginal sex, but not impossible, so if you’re not trying to conceive, use protection. You should also both check you are free from sexually transmitted diseases before you engage in any type of unprotected sex.
If your partner were to ejaculate in a warm, not hot, bathtub, then sperm may survive for a few minutes. However, chances of conception are rare as the sperm would need to travel through the water and up through your cervix to the egg. But again, if you’re not trying to get pregnant, don’t take the risk!
If you thought that conception through a bathtub was difficult, conception through a hot tub is nigh on impossible! Again, it’s best to avoid the risk, but it’s likely that the chemicals and hot water will kill any sperm.
We’re here for you!
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