Q: How long do sperm live after ejaculation?
A: Most sperm die within minutes after ejaculation inside the vagina or outside the woman's genital tract. Once sperm enter the woman's genital tract, the cervix and uterus, most die within 1-2 days, but some can survive up to 5 days and thus the longest that sperm can survive in fertile cervical fluid or the uterus is five days. Studies have shown that most pregnancies can be attributed to intercourse that takes place within the 1-2 days before ovulation and the day of ovulation, but some pregnancies can happen after intercourse that happened up to 5 days before ovulation.
To maximize your chances of conception, keep having intercourse daily at least every 1-2 days and until ovulation is confirmed by a clear and sustained thermal shift. Intercourse closer to ovulation is much more likely to get you pregnant.
When sperm are processed and maintained under strict laboratory conditions in a nutrient medium, they can remain alive for up to seven days. Sperm samples collected into a sterile container may remain alive for many hours, but their fertilizing capability drops dramatically after 60 minutes. Sperm exposed to room air on clothing, bed linens or toilet seats lose motility (the ability to swim) rapidly. Once the semen dries out, the sperm are usually dead.
There is also data suggesting that conception can occur up to 5-6 days after an episode of intercourse, which indicates that a few sperm may survive that long in the woman's body. On average, though, most sperm do not typically survive in the woman's genital tract for more than 4-5 days. So, optimal timing for people trying to conceive dictates intercourse one to three days before ovulation.
Sperm can live from several minutes to several days depending on their environment:
- Exposed to air, on a cold surface or clothing, for example, sperm usually die within minutes
- In a closed and clean container at body temperature, sperm can survive for 4-6 hours or even more
- Sperm can be frozen at extremely low temperatures (but not in the refrigerator) and survive for years
- Sperm can survive in the vagina for up to several hours
- Most sperm die in the cervix within 24-48 hours, but some can survive for 4-5 days
- Some sperm can also survive in the fallopian tubes for several days