How Long Does Sperm Stay Alive?

by Cat Bowen

If you've had a pregnancy scare, or if you've ever tried to get pregnant, you may quickly become obsessed with sperm, causing you to research things like "how long does sperm stay alive?" or similar queries. Like, if you have sex a few days before ovulation, does that mean you're totally out this cycle, or are those sperm making a home? Let me tell you, the answer will blow your mind.

If you thought that your partner was tenacious with how long they could leave their socks balled up at the foot of the sofa without noticing the hamper they walk by every day — ha. They have nothing on the sperm swimming through their undercarriages. Oh no, those little tadpoles are tiny evolutionarily driven marathoners of baby making. Sure, they're less lively and, well, alive after they've been exposed to air, and they die pretty quickly when, say, met with a handful of Kleenex, but given the proper environment, a sperm's lifespan far outlives your expectations. How long will sperm stay alive? It depends.

According to Oakland University, sperm does have some fragility to them. For instance, did you know that plain old tap water will cause your partner's sperm to explode? Yep. The tap water causes something called osmotic shock which makes the sperm go boom. Also, according to Oakland University, sperm dies as it dries out, so a specimen cup full of sperm will live far longer than the sperm on a hand towel or tissues.

Inside your body, though? That's when those sperm really show their perseverance. Those determined sperm can live inside of you for up to five days, according to the Mayo Clinic. That's why it's so key for you to take your birth control every day if you're trying to prevent a pregnancy, noted Planned Parenthood. Because evolution is trying to get you pregnant, and you're trying to put Darwin in his place — not in your uterus.

However, if you are trying to get pregnant, this is comforting news. I can tell you from personal experience, sometimes you think you miss your fertility window, only to be surprised with a positive pregnancy test. Thanks, evolution. Otherwise, be careful and take proper precautions to prevent any unintended consequences.