How Long Sperm Can Live and How to Improve Its Lifespan

How Long Can Sperm Live and How to Naturally Improve Its Lifespan

It is important to know how long sperm can live if you are trying to have a baby. Sperm can live for up to 5 days inside a woman’s body, and the best chances of getting pregnant is to have sex around the time of ovulation. Some people want to know how long sperm lives outside the body because they could be worried about an unplanned pregnancy if some semen has come into contact with the vagina. Sperm can’t live very long outside the body because the environment quickly kills off live sperm.

The length of time that sperm lives depends on a number of factors. For example, the quality of the semen, the number of sperm cells, where ejaculation happens, the moisture and temperature of the surface where the sperm is, all affect the lifespan of sperm.

There are many natural methods to improve the lifespan of sperm, which can, in turn, increase your chances of conceiving. Sperm will live longer if a man takes care of his general health, eats the proper foods, cuts down on alcohol and quits smoking.

Before finding out more on how to naturally improve the lifespan of sperm, let’s get answers to two questions: how long can sperm live inside the body and, how long can sperm live outside the body.

How Long Does Sperm Live Inside the Body?

The lifespan of sperm inside a woman’s body depends on various circumstances. According to Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD, sperm can survive inside the body for up to 5 days.

When a man ejaculates, around 100 million sperm cells are released in the semen. However, very few sperm cells live long enough to reach the fallopian tubes and find the waiting egg. According to Dr. Charles Linderman of Oakland University, only a small fraction of sperm cells that enters the vagina reach all the way to the fallopian tubes.2

The Journal of Clinical Investigation reports that there are a number of obstacles along the way that the sperm encounters. These obstacles include: getting through the cervix into the fallopian tubes, getting to the right fallopian tube where the egg is, and penetrating the egg to fertilize it. Scientists say that the individual sperm cells then stay on the walls of the fallopian tubes for about 24 hours. When ovulation draws near, some unknown factors triggers the release of the sperm cells to move towards the released egg.2

This is one reason why the sperm health is so important if you want to increase the chances of getting pregnant.

Sperm can also live in the vagina during a woman’s period. In fact, sperm can still stay active in the body for up to 5 days all through the menstrual cycle. Dr. Rod Moser on WebMD explains that vaginal blood doesn’t prevent pregnancy.4

Because sperm can live for up to 5 days in the body, you can still get pregnant if you have sex towards the end of your period. For example, sometimes, ovulation causes vaginal spotting between periods that can be mistaken for the start of a period. Having sex around the time of ovulation is when you are most likely to become pregnant.

How Long Does Sperm Live Outside the Body?

Sperm can’t last very long outside the body because the environment quickly kills off live sperm. Any sperm that has dried is considered dead and can’t make a woman pregnant.1

However, because sperm can still live for a short time outside the body, it is still possible to get pregnant without having sexual intercourse. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom says that sperm can enter the vagina if you or your partner have semen on your fingers and touch the vagina.5 Even though the chances of becoming pregnant are slim without having sex, it can still happen.

Of course, modern fertility treatment also makes it possible for the lifespan of sperm outside the body to be extended for many years if they are kept frozen.6

Healthy Sperm for Pregnancy

In order to get pregnant, it’s important that the sperm is healthy and semen is high quality so that they have the longest possible lifespan. The journal Human Reproduction Update says that the cervical mucus filters out sperm that have poor structure and aren’t very active.7

According to the Mayo Clinic, healthy sperm have a greater chance of living longer in a woman’s body and this is determined by 3 factors:8

  • Quantity. To increase the chances of getting pregnant, there have to be as many sperm cells as possible to fertilize an egg.
  • Activity. To last the distance, sperm must be very active to wriggle and swim to the fallopian tubes.
  • Structure. Sperm should have oval heads and long tails to reach the fallopian tubes and fertilize an egg.

After ovulation, an egg needs to be fertilized within 12-14 hours. This means that active, healthy sperm must be in the fallopian tubes during this time for you to conceive. If you suffer from a hormonal imbalance, you may find it difficult to predict the exact time of ovulation. Increasing levels of progesterone in your body naturally may also help you get pregnant.

So, how many sperms does it take to get pregnant? The answer is just one! However, the chances of getting pregnant are greatly increased by having millions of healthy sperm vying for the possibility of fertilizing an egg.

How to Improve the Lifespan of Your Sperm

What can you do to improve the lifespan of your sperm and increase your fertility? Most doctors agree on the following ways to help sperm live longer:

Stay healthy

Having an active lifestyle and enjoying a healthy, well-balanced diet is a great way to improve your own physical health and the health of your sperm.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine found a link between a sedentary lifestyle and poor semen quality. They found that the sperm of men who enjoyed regular physical activity was of higher quality, quantity, and activity than those who watched television for leisure time.9

Another study found that moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) was one of the best types of exercise regimes to improve the lifespan of sperm. However, the study also found that intensive cycling has a negative impact on sperm health.10

Regarding diet, the journal Human Reproduction found that diet consisting of fish, chicken, fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains have a positive impact on sperm activity.11 Other studies have confirmed that a healthy diet results in healthier semen.12

Drink less alcohol

Another way to improve the lifespan of sperm is to cut back on alcohol use. It seems that it’s not just the amount of alcohol that is consumed but the frequency of drinking alcohol that affects sperm quality.

A study from Denmark discovered that men who habitually consumed alcohol every week had lower semen quality than those who only had one or two alcoholic drinks per week. There is also a direct link with the amount of alcohol consumed and sperm concentration. So, the more alcohol a person consumed regularly, the lower their sperm count was.13

Reduce stress

Reducing stress can also boost the health of your sperm and increase its lifespan inside the body. Too much psychological stress can have a negative impact on your general health and emotional stress can also damage sperm health.

A study carried out by the University of Columbia found that stress is harmful to sperm and semen quality. They found this was due to stress hormones affecting testosterone and sperm production and quality. The study found that stressful life events and perceived stress have a more negative impact on sperm health than workplace stress.14

Quit smoking

Smoking makes you less fertile and quitting smoking greatly improves the quality, activity, and quantity of sperm.

Dr. Laura Martin on WebMD reported on a study showing the link between smoking and poor sperm quality. The reason for this link is that smoking damages sperm cells making it very difficult for them to fertilize an egg. Even if the sperm managed to fertilize an egg, there was still a higher risk of miscarriage.15

Supplements to boost sperm health

Some supplements can help your fertility and boost the health of your sperm. For example, WebMD reports on a study that a combination of folic acid and zinc supplements can increase sperm count. From the research, scientists found that fertility increased in nearly 75% of men who took the supplements.16

Other ways to improve semen quality

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic also recommend some other practical ways to help keep your sperm of high quality and improve its lifespan:17

  • Avoid exposure to toxins and pesticides as much as possible.
  • Wear loose fitting underwear.
  • Avoid sitting in saunas and hot tubs for a long time.

What a Semen Analysis Will Tell You About Sperm Quality

Many men are interested in the lifespan and quality of their semen to find out the number and quality of sperm it contains. Semen analysis tests are usually done to help identify fertility problems.

A semen analysis will include results from the following tests:

  • The volume of semen.
  • The number of sperm in each milliliter of semen.
  • How quickly the semen turns to liquid after ejaculation.
  • The structure of the sperm.
  • The activity of the sperm.
  • pH levels of the semen.
  • White blood cell count (there shouldn’t be white blood cells in semen).
  • Fructose level (the fructose provides energy for the sperm).

Analysis of these results can help doctors calculate the length of time that your sperm live and what needs to be done to improve fertility.

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Article Sources:

  1. WebMD. Sperm FAQ.
  2. Oakland. Sperm facts.
  3. J Clin Invest. 2010 Apr 1; 120(4): 984–994.
  4. WebMD. Does vagina blood kill sperm?
  5. NHS. Can I get pregnant without penetration?
  6. MayoClinic. How long do sperm live after ejaculation?
  7. Hum Reprod Update. 2006 Jan-Feb;12(1):23-37.
  8. MayoClinic. Healthy sperm.
  9. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49:265-270.
  10. Reproduction. February 1, 2017 153 157-174.
  11. Hum Reprod. 2012 Oct; 27(10): 2899–2907.
  12. Fertil Steril. 2009 Mar;91(3):812-8.
  13. BMJ Open. 2014;4:e00546
  14. ScienceDaily. Stress degrades sperm quality.
  15. WebMD. Smokers sperm less fertile.
  16. WebMD. Supplements boost sperm count.
  17. MayoClinic. What’s the best way to produce healthy sperm?

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