How Long Does Sperm Live After Ejaculation?

by Nov 7, 2019

Knowing how long sperm can live after ejaculation is important for those trying to conceive. This also applies to those trying to avoid pregnancy while using birth control and/or having unprotected sex. The lifetime of sperm outside the body depends on several physical and environmental factors (cervical mucus, humidity, body temperature etc). Today we’ll discuss how long sperm lives after ejaculation in water, the female reproductive tract, on the skin, and more.


How Long Does Sperm Live in the Female Reproductive Tract?

After intercourse sperm can live in the female body up to 5 days depending on its environment.

Men may ejaculate over 40 million sperm cells at once during intercourse. These sperm swim upwards towards the fallopian tubes, looking for a mature egg to fertilize. Fast swimming sperm can reach a mature egg as quickly as 30 minutes.

The lifespan of sperm is under debate once it enters a woman’s body. The lifespan of sperm and sperm motility(swimming) is heavily influenced by cervical mucus. Because mucus provides sperm with the nutrients and the environment needed to live longer.

This is amazing considering that sperm can have a brief lifespan. When there is no cervical mucus present, sperm dries out within a few hours. Tracking cervical mucus is essential to understanding your fertility because of this.

When your cervical mucus is rich in nutrients, the lifespan of sperm inside the vagina is prolonged. This gives the sperm extra time to reach and fertilize the egg. Sperm may also simply remain idle until the egg is released and ready to be fertilized.

Research shows that the chances of conceiving are more likely when intercourse is a few days before ovulation. Partly due to cervical mucus becoming more fertile approaching ovulation.

Learning to read the changes in mucus takes time. Also, mucus can be affected by :

  • Lifestyle
  • Sex
  • Infections
  • Other health related variables

However, the Mira fertility tracker measures your actual fertility hormone concentrations and shows your unique hormone curve. Thus, helping you accurately track your ovulation cycle even if you have variable cycles.

In conclusion, the lifespan of sperm inside a vagina strongly correlates to the conditions of the cervical mucus. Your cervical mucus changes as your menstrual cycle progress, gradually becoming more sticky and egg-white when closer to ovulation. However, accurately tracking the fertile window of your reproductive system using cervical mucus is chancy.

How about Skin and Dry Surfaces?

Sperm left out on a dry surface(skin) becomes non-fertile within a few hours and can not get you pregnant. After previously dried sperm becomes rehydrated, it will still be non-fertile (more on what to do and not do after sex here).

When using the withdrawal method of sex, depending on the conditions, ejaculation usually occurs further away from the vulva. Although, sperm on the vulva or on the upper thighs can possibly find their way into the vagina, resulting in pregnancy.

Ejaculating in Water?

The condition of the pH and temperature that a sperm cell resides in is important in determining how long it survives. A sperm’s lifespan is practically nonexistent in chlorinated pools, hot tubs, and jacuzzis. Yet, it is possible for sperm to survive for a couple of minutes with plain water in a warm bath. However, a pregnancy occurring from warm bath water with sperm in it is not likely, assuming no prior intercourse has taken place.

What is the Lifespan of Frozen Sperm?

When sperm is properly stored in a frozen container, it continues to be fertile for an indefinite time period. There have been reported pregnancies for cases where sperm was stored for 21 years, before being thawed then inseminated.

Sperm is usually frozen at -70˚C when it is stored. Roughly 50% of sperm cells end up fertile after being frozen and then thawed out. Fortunately, the sperm cells are still capable of fertilization after this process.

✔️ Medically Reviewed by Banafsheh Kashani, MD, FACOG

Banafsheh Kashani, MD, FACOGBanafsheh Kashani, M.D., FACOG is a board-certified OB/GYN and specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Eden Fertility Centers, and has been treatingcouples and individuals with infertility since 2014.

Dr. Kashani has conducted extensive research in female reproduction, with a specific focus on the endometrium and implantation.

Additionally, Dr. Kashani has authored papers in the areas of fertility preservation, and fertility in women with PCOS and Turners syndrome. She also was part of a large SART-CORS study evaluating the trend in frozen embryo transfers and success rates.

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