How Long Can Sperm Survive
Sperm is produced by the testicles, or testis which is one of the two male reproductive glands that produce spermatozoa (sperm) and emit androgens (male sex hormones). It takes the testicles 90 days to produce fresh sperm and they are stored in an organ called the epididymis until they are mature and develop the ability to swim. It is unclear how long sperm can survive for when inside the epididymis although it appears that the health of sperm is at its optimum best when ejaculations occur every two to three days.
In a female, if sperm is ejaculated directly into the vagina, it can fertilise an egg for up to five days. The woman’s cervical mucus and the hormones in the mucus can help the sperm to survive. Sperm, in the vagina, will only survive about six hours due to the very acidic nature of the vaginal secretions. The cervical mucus that is existing when ovulation is near is much more alkaline and more welcoming to sperm. The egg white consistency of the cervical mucus helps the sperm move more easily through the vagina to the cervix, increasing the chance that the sperm will be in the correct location for fertilization to occur.
In women who are less sexually receptive, the sperm will survive much lesser durations. In many cases, the sperm will live less than three days. Some research has shown that some sperm is capable of surviving in the Fallopian tubes up to 7 days, but overall the average amount of time being 3 to 4 days.
In sperm that is stored in a sterile condition for example a container when stored at a fertility clinic it can survive for up to four hours. Some semen samples are kept in liquid nitrogen at -196 Celsius, the sperm that survives and can be kept alive for over 50 years. Sperm exposed to air lose their ability to swim, if sperm is kept moist it can survive, once semen begins to dry it dies.
Some women who not want to become pregnant will use a spermicide, usually in the form of a foam or a gel. It is not a commonly used method these days. This not only blocks the sperm’s access to the cervix from the vagina it prevents the sperm’s motility (movement) and the chemicals in the spermicide drastically effects the life of the sperm cell. Studies show that woman still has a 15% chance of becoming pregnant using this method.
The sperm’s survival rate can be determined by the female’s ability to nourish sperm in the cervix as well as the man’s age, volume, quality, quantity and motility of sperm after ejaculation.