Q: How long can sperm survive outside of the male body?
A: The survival of spermatozoa, or sperm, depends on the conditions under which they are being held:
- Sperm exposed to air, deposited on clothing, bed linens, or toilet seats, for example, dry out very quickly and die, usually within minutes after ejaculation.
- A sperm sample collected in a sterile container at body temperature may remain alive for several hours, but the sperms' fertilizing capability drops dramatically within 60 minutes after ejaculation.
- Sperm deposited inside the vagina usually die within 20-30 minutes after ejaculation.
- Sperm that move from the vagina into the uterus can survive longer. Studies have shown that conception is possible up to five to six days after intercourse. So it is possible for some sperm to survive that long in the uterus, usually in the cervical mucus or the fallopian tubes. But that is not typical. Most sperm die in the uterus within 24-48 hours after ejaculation, and the more time has passed after ejaculation, the less likely is the fertilization of the egg.
- In excellent laboratory conditions and in a nutrient medium they can remain alive for up to seven days.