Sperm cells per ejaculation: 200 million. Sperm cells needed to make a baby: 1.
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How Long Do Sperm Live?

Once inside the female body, sperm can live for a number of days, outside the body sperm survival is much shorter. In this post we’re going to take a closer look at how long sperm live for, the conditions they need to survive, and the importance of understanding sperm survival in fertility and reproductive health. Read on to find out more…

This article is also available in Spanish.

How long do sperm live inside the female body? 

Amazingly, sperm can live inside the female reproductive system for as long as five days. Although this is dependent on the right conditions. Around peak fertility, our bodies can promote sperm survival by producing a type of cervical mucus that protects sperm and makes it easier for them to get to the fallopian tubes. 

It only takes one sperm cell to fertilize an egg cell - and each ejaculation contains millions of sperm cells! However, without the right conditions, sperm can only survive for a few hours inside the female reproductive system. Knowing your fertile window can help you better understand your reproductive health.

Sperm survival and the fertile window

Did you know there are only a small number of days in any cycle when you’re fertile? After ovulation, an egg cell can only survive for about 12-24 hours. Since sperm can live for up to five days in the female body, this means the fertile window is six days long in total. 

Sex around the time of ovulation increases the likelihood of conception - this gives sperm enough time to reach the female egg cell before the sperm cells start dying off.

Using emergency birth control

Emergency birth control options are available for unexpected and unprotected intercourse. There are two types of emergency birth control available: Plan B (also known as the morning-after pill), and the copper IUD

Emergency birth control works by delaying ovulation or preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg cell. It’s best to use emergency birth control as soon as possible after having unprotected sex, but emergency birth control can still be effective for up to five days after intercourse.

How long do sperm live outside our bodies?

The sperm life cycle is complex - new sperm are constantly being made and can live for several months inside the testes. Without warmth and moisture, sperm cannot survive for more than a couple of minutes outside our bodies. 

If you need to transport semen for medical reasons, it’s best to keep the sample close to your body (such as in an internal pocket) and deliver it as quickly as possible. 

Can sperm live in water?

No - sperm cannot survive in water. If you have unprotected sex in water there is a risk of pregnancy, but you cannot get pregnant just from being in the water in a swimming pool or hot tub. Any soap or chemicals in the water will also kill off any sperm pretty quickly!

Sperm quality and sperm survival

Keep in mind that if you’re trying to get pregnant, sperm quality can be an important factor in your fertility. Good quality sperm has a better chance of surviving and fertilizing the egg cell. The best way to promote good quality sperm is to lead a healthy lifestyle. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about sperm quality.

Natural birth control and sperm survival

Hormonal birth control works by stopping ovulation. Without an egg cell to fertilize, sperm dies inside the female reproductive system. Condoms work as a barrier method by preventing sperm and egg cells from meeting. However, there is a birth control method that takes sperm survival into account: Natural Cycles is a non-hormonal, non-invasive birth control method that learns the pattern of your cycle.

Our app can predict and confirm ovulation based on basal body temperature. The Natural Cycles algorithm learns the unique pattern of your cycle and can predict your fertile window (those six days in the cycle when you can get pregnant). The algorithm also adds a couple of buffer days to account for ovulation moving, because our bodies don’t always behave like clockwork! 

When you know your fertile days you can choose to either use a condom or abstain from sex for the duration of the fertile window. On all the other days of your cycle you’re not fertile, so there’s no need to use protection. 

Thinking about going hormone-free?

Thanks for reading ‘How Long Do Sperm Live For?’ We hope you now know a little more about these swift swimmers and their survival rate. At Natural Cycles we believe in demystifying and destigmatizing all things when it comes to female health. 

Our birth control app not only provides a daily fertility status, but will also give you useful insights and updates about what’s happening in your body. Learn more about how Natural Cycles works and go hormone-free today!

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Written By

Jennifer Gray

A writer with a passion for women’s health, Jennifer Gray has years of experience writing about various reproductive health topics including birth control, planning pregnancy, women’s anatomy, and so much more.

Jack in a suit and tie holding a microphone and giving a presentation.

Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

Dr. Jack Pearson is Natural Cycles’ in-house medical expert. With 10+ years of experience working in the field of fertility, he dedicates the majority of his time to conducting groundbreaking research within the field of women's health.

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