The average man ejaculates one to two teaspoons of semen, but that small amount of fluid contains 100-600 million sperm. While it only takes one sperm and one egg to conceive, the lifespan of each sperm is limited. Once it leaves the man’s body, the clock starts ticking. How long does sperm live both outside and inside the body?
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How Long Does Sperm Live Inside A Woman?
A man may ejaculate millions of sperm inside of woman, but only a few will survive long enough to try and fertilize an egg. So, how long does sperm live in the body? That depends on how far the sperm “swim”.
Sperm can live for several days if they can make it to the cervix. If the sperm does not make it past the vagina canal, it will only survive for a few hours. The vaginal canal’s acidic environment eventually destroys the sperm.
When a woman is ovulating, her body has a built-in mechanism that makes it easier to conceive. During this time, her body produces a cervical mucous that creates a protective environment for the sperm. The mucous even helps the sperm make its way up to the cervix.
If the conditions are right, healthy sperm that make it past the cervix and up into the fallopian tubes and can live 5-7 days. However, the average sperm will live just 3-4 days even after making it to the fallopian tubes. Only the heartiest of sperm will get a chance at fertilizing the egg.
While a sperm’s lifespan lasts several days, a woman’s egg is only viable for one day after it is released.
How Long Does Sperm Live Outside The Body?
Sperm needs a warm, moist environment to survive. Otherwise, it will perish quickly. Outside of the body, sperm will only live an hour at most. Its lifespan will depend on a variety of environmental factors and how long the sperm is exposed to the air.
While sperm will not live long outside of the body, women should avoid having a man ejaculate anywhere near her vagina if she is avoiding pregnancy. The chances of conceiving are slim, but still possible if a man ejaculates on or near the vagina.
Once semen has completely dried, the sperm is no longer living.
If a couple is using the withdrawal method for conception (not recommended), the man must fully withdraw before he ejaculates and he must be careful not to ejaculate anywhere near the vaginal opening. If sperm make their way inside the vaginal canal, they live much longer, and there is a chance that the woman could become pregnant.
Improving Sperm Health
If you are planning a pregnancy, there are ways to improve sperm health and improve your chances of conceiving.
- Exercising regularly: Regular exercise will increase testosterone levels, which is a critical part of the sperm production process. Excessive exercise, however, can decrease testosterone levels, so it’s important not to go overboard when creating a workout routine.
- Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet rich in protein, vegetables, healthy fat and fruit will help produce healthy sperm. Avoid soy products as they can increase estrogen levels and decrease sperm production.
- Minimize stress: Studies show that stress can have a negative effect on sperm quality and quantity.
- Get enough sleep: Getting at least 8 hours of quality sleep a night can help boost sperm production.
- Wear boxers: Many doctors recommend switching to boxers as they keep the scrotum cool. Heat will slow down sperm production, so avoid going into hot tubs or taking a hot baths. Make sure that your pants are loose and unrestrictive.
The healthier the sperm, the greater the chances of it reaching the fallopian tubes. Taking steps to improve your sperm’s health can greatly improve your chances of conception.
Testing for Sperm Health with Semen Analysis
If you are concerned about the longevity and quality of you or your partner’s sperm, a semen analysis can help you pinpoint the cause of infertility. This analysis is performed on semen that has been ejaculated into a cup.
During the analysis, doctors will look for:
- Sperm density: The number of sperm in each milliliter of semen. The average male will produce 20 million or more sperm per milliliter.
- Amount of semen: The average male will ejaculate one to two teaspoons of ejaculate. If a man is producing less, there may not be enough sperm to achieve a pregnancy. On the other hand, too much semen could dilute sperm density.
- Motility of the sperm: Doctors will look at how the sperm is moving and how many of them are moving. One hour after ejaculation, sperm should be moving in a straight line and in a forward direction.
- Morphology: Doctors will also evaluate the shape, size and appearance of the sperm. In most cases, 200 sperm will be analyzed and any defects will be noted by the doctor.