Whether you’re trying to conceive or trying not to, knowing the answer to the question how long can sperm live inside you? will do more than score you points on trivia night.
Let’s start with a quick sex-ed recap. To get pregnant, an egg must be released from your ovaries and fertilized by a sperm. To make this happen, sperm need to be waiting in your fallopian tube when the egg is released.
If the egg isn’t fertilized within about 24 hours of being released, it will pass out of you when you have your next period.
So, how long will sperm wait for an egg? This is one of the key questions that decides whether a bedroom session will result in pregnancy or not.
Let’s take a look.
How long can sperm survive?
So what is that window? How long can sperm live inside you to get pregnant?
Under the right conditions, sperm can survive inside a woman’s reproductive tract for up to 5 days. This means you could have sex almost a week before ovulating and still get pregnant! “The right conditions” usually means that the woman is at her most fertile and has produced a lot of egg-white cervical mucus to allow and help the sperm to travel to its destination. If the ideal cervical mucus isn’t present, the sperm might die fairly quickly inside the vagina’s acidic environment.
Notice we said “up to 5 days,” though. That’s the max. Can sperm live for 10 days? Nope. And it’s not guaranteed that your partner’s sperm will survive even 5 days. The best chance of getting pregnant is to have sex the 2 days before ovulation and the day of ovulation.
If you’re doing IUI or IVF, the sperm usually undergoes a washing and concentrating process in the laboratory before use. Once it’s been washed, the sperm can live under incubation for 24-72 hrs.
How long does it take sperm to reach the cervix?
Within a few minutes of ejaculation, sperm will arrive at the cervix. Some women have been told to lay on their backs for 30 minutes to an hour after ejaculation to help the sperm reach the cervix, but that is not necessary.
After getting through the cervix, the speediest sperm will get to the fallopian tube within 45 minutes, while the slowest might take up to 12 hours.
The average amount of sperm per ejaculation is a whopping 200 million. Only about 1000 of those typically get to the fallopian tube, and only about 200 of those actually reach the egg.
And then, if you’re wondering:
How long can sperm live outside in the big wide world?
Outside of bodies and incubators, sperm can live for up to 30 minutes—but it depends on the conditions. Hot tubs, for example, are inhospitable to sperm—they hate the heat and chemicals—so sperm may die off in a few seconds in this environment. Once sperm has dried on a surface, it is no longer viable. So no, you can’t get pregnant from a hotel bedspread. (It’s still gross to think about, though!)
While it’s unlikely that you’ll get pregnant by coming into contact with sperm outside your vagina, it’s not entirely impossible. If sperm gets near your vagina (through the pull out method, for example, or even through anal sex), it could potentially find itself in some hospitable mucus that allows it to travel all the way up through the vagina, into the cervix, and up to the fallopian tubes. It’s very unlikely, but yes, it’s possible.
The bottom line
If you’re trying to conceive, your chances are highest just before and during ovulation. That’s about two weeks before your next period starts.
(If you’re trying to not conceive, reverse this advice.)
Whatever you’re at, good luck. 💛