How long does sperm live outside the body?
The life cycle of sperm outside the male body begins at the time of ejaculation. Some die within minutes, and others can live up to seven days in perfect conditions. But most live about two or three days inside the female reproductive system, according to USC Fertility.
In general, one ejaculation contains up to 500 million sperm, according to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). It only takes one sperm to reach the right place – the right fallopian tube – at the right time – after ovulation – to create a new life.
This gives the impression that pregnancy can occur very easily. This is often the case, of course, but most sperm die before reaching their final destination, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Understanding the lifespan of sperm – inside and outside the body – can help you, whether you’re trying to get pregnant or avoid doing so.
The sperm’s journey to the egg
The purpose of a sperm is to cross the cervix and uterus of the woman to end up in the fallopian tube in search of an egg. It is not as easy as it sounds. During this process, sperm face many obstacles, and with each obstacle, the sperm count decreases. Of the half-million sperm that started the journey, relatively few actually reach the woman’s egg – if there is one at that time.
How long does the sperm live if it is outside the woman’s body?
When a sperm is found outside the woman’s body, it lives only a few minutes. Sperm need moisture and heat to live, so once exposed to air, they die quickly. As soon as the sperm dries, the sperm it contains die.
This may lead to the idea that “snatching” before ejaculation may prevent pregnancy, but this is not always the case. According to UCSB, pre-ejaculatory fluids may contain sperm and remain inside the vagina before you withdraw. In addition, sperm near the vagina, where there are heat and humidity, can live up to 20 minutes and end up indoors. The extraction method is ineffective because the pre-ejaculatory fluid contains sperm and it is difficult to anticipate when this liquid will be released and thus avoid the presence of sperm in the vagina.
Can sperm survive in a hot tub?
Because sperm need moisture and heat to survive, they may survive when ejaculation takes place in a hot tub, but they only survive for a few seconds according to UCSB. The chances of getting pregnant in this way are very slim. The ratio of water to sperm is quite high, and the chances of a sperm crossing the water and entering the vagina are low. In addition, chemicals, soap, or foam in water can kill sperm.
How long is there a risk of pregnancy when the man ejaculates in the woman’s vagina?
During vaginal sex, sperm are deposited in the acidic vagina, according to UCSB. This atmosphere kills sperm that fail to reach the cervix within a few hours. During ovulation, the pH of the reproductive system becomes less acidic and sperm can live a little longer, giving them more time to move back to the cervix.
Sperm that reach the cervix and uterus have a longer life. They can live there for up to five days, according to the American Pregnancy Association, although most die in one or two days. This is where cervical fluids act to propel live sperm into the uterus and into a fallopian tube. Some experts believe that cervical fluid acts as a filter, allowing the most mobile sperm to pass through while stopping those that are less mobile.
Finally, some sperm reach a fallopian tube. Although a few thousand of them can make the full journey, only a few will find an egg. The rest died during the search, according to UCSB. The average lifespan of a sperm that reaches the fallopian tube is three to four days, but some can live up to a week. This means that an egg that makes its way into the fallopian tube during this period could be fertilized, which could lead to pregnancy.
But what about the lifespan of an egg? According to the American Pregnancy Association, if an egg manages to reach the fallopian tube, it must be fertilized within 12 to 24 hours of its release from the ovary for the pregnancy to take place.
What to do if you think you are in danger of an unwanted pregnancy
Do you think you’re at risk of an unwanted pregnancy? Emergency contraception is available. There are several options, including over-the-counter pills, such as Plan B (you don’t need a prescription, just ask the pharmacist), and even the copper IUD (which a doctor should ask). Whichever option you choose, it should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. For example, Plan B One-Step should be taken within 72 hours of intercourse. But the earlier you take it, the more effective it is.