How Long Can Sperm Live?

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How Long Does Sperm Live?

Whether you are trying to conceive or avoid pregnancy, sperms play a crucial role. In a woman’s body, sperms can live for days if the environment is alkaline and moist. But if they dry out or interact with chemicals like soaps, they can die pretty quickly. Outside the vagina, life for sperms is usually very short, ranging from a couple minutes to just a few hours.

Getting pregnant can be tricky. Sometimes, you might need calculations and ovulation tracking to get things right. It doesn’t stop there, though. Understanding the life of the sperm can be a major game changer, even if parenthood isn’t on your agenda. For example, what happens if a male ejaculates near a woman’s anus and semen seeps into the vagina? What about semen on clothing or in the bath? It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. The key to figuring it out comes down to learning about the sperm’s life span.

How Long Can The Sperm Live Inside The Body?

Once the sperm has entered a woman’s vagina, it can survive for about 24 to 48 hours. During this time, it has the ability to impregnate the woman.1

However, the American Pregnancy Association shares that sperms might live even longer if they are in a favorable environment. For instance, in a place that is moist and warm, they might hang around for 3 to 5 days. This usually happens with sperms in the cervix. But when sperms dry up, they die completely. Re-adding moisture won’t revive them, either.2 So, if sperms linger in the vagina without shimmying up to the upper reproductive tract, they’ll probably last just a few hours. But if they end up in the right place – like the fallopian tubes – they can live as long as 7 days. From there, a woman can get pregnant if she has already ovulated. The same goes if she ovulates while the sperm is alive and it manages to penetrate the egg.3

If sperms linger in the vagina without shimmying up to the upper reproductive tract, they’ll probably last just a few hours. But if they end up in the right place – like the fallopian tubes – they can live as long as 7 days.

Acidity can also play a role. While the vagina is usually quite acidic, situations like ovulation can make a woman produce more cervical mucus, which is alkaline. This makes it easy for the sperm to survive. But when there’s little to no cervical mucus, the sperm might last for just a few minutes.4

How Long Does The Sperm Live Outside The Body?

When it comes to clothing and other surfaces, the fate of the sperm is a different story. You might be surprised to learn how short-lived it can be. Unlike the human body – which is warm and moist – the environment outside of it isn’t welcoming. Survival can be tough. And once the semen dries out, the sperm loses life and cannot revived.5 Survival time can range from a few minutes to a couple hours, depending on the environment’s dryness and hostility.6 To put things into perspective, survival is rarely beyond a few minutes on dry sheet or clothing. And since semen dries quickly, the lack of moisture instantly kills the sperm.

Survival time can range from a few minutes to a couple hours, depending on the environment’s dryness and hostility

How about warm baths? Sperms might last a little longer here. But when other substances are in the water, they will eventually die from osmotic shock. Detergent and soap can totally strip their cell membranes, causing them to explode. So, even when sperms are moist, the odds are stacked against them when these chemicals are around. They will die almost immediately in these conditions.7

In a lab environment, experts can help the sperm survive longer – 5 days or more. This can be done by removing it from semen and placing it in a humid and warm environment, an ideal scenario for the sperm’s survival.

How To Improve Sperm Health

If you’re concerned about fertility and would like to amp up your sperm production, check out these tips and remedies.

  • Natural remedies like maca root can increase semen volume, boost sperm count, and improve motility.8
  • Ayurveda uses ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) to enhance fertility. This herb improves sperm concentration, along with morphology and motility.9
  • You may also want to consider relaxation therapy or de-stressing workouts. Yoga is the perfect example. Stress can adversely impact sperm production and quality, so don’t overlook this aspect.10
  • Excessive alcohol consumption can adversely impact sperm viability. Try cutting down on this habit to improve your fertility.11
  • Avoid directly exposing your genital area or groin to WiFi and radiation from laptops or smartphones. This type of exposure can weaken the sperm by causing a decrease of motility and DNA fragmentation.12

References   [ + ]

1. Dr. Lindemann’s Fun Sperm Facts!, Oakland University.
2, 5. Can Pregnancy Occur if…? Pregnancy Myths Cleared Up!, American Pregnancy Association.
3. Getting Pregnant, NHS.
4. Reproduction, Marquette University.
6. How long does sperm live?, Huron County Health Unit.
7. Mechanisms of Sperm Motility: Dr. Charles Lindemann, FAQ, Oakland University.
8. Gonzales, Gustavo F., Amanda Cordova, Carla Gonzales, Arturo Chung, Karla Vega, and Arturo Villena. “Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men.” Asian Journal of Andrology 3, no. 4 (2001): 301-304.
9. Ambiye, Vijay R., Deepak Langade, Swati Dongre, Pradnya Aptikar, Madhura Kulkarni, and Atul Dongre. “Clinical evaluation of the spermatogenic activity of the root extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in oligospermic males: a pilot study.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013).
10. Janevic, Teresa, Linda G. Kahn, Paul Landsbergis, Piera M. Cirillo, Barbara A. Cohn, Xinhua Liu, and Pam Factor-Litvak. “Effects of work and life stress on semen quality.” Fertility and sterility 102, no. 2 (2014): 530-538.
11. Sermondade, Nathalie, Hanène Elloumi, Isabelle Berthaut, Emmanuelle Mathieu, Vanina Delarouzière, Célia Ravel, and Jacqueline Mandelbaum. “Progressive alcohol-induced sperm alterations leading to spermatogenic arrest, which was reversed after alcohol withdrawal.” Reproductive biomedicine online 20, no. 3 (2010): 324-327.
12. Avendano, Conrado, Ariela Mata, César A. Sanchez Sarmiento, and Gustavo F. Doncel. “Use of laptop computers connected to internet through Wi-Fi decreases human sperm motility and increases sperm DNA fragmentation.” Fertility and sterility 97, no. 1 (2012): 39-45.