Sperm life span
As a result of ejaculation during intercourse, about 300 million sperm rush into the female body. At the same time, only one of this “army” will be able to reach the ovum and give rise to a new life. Needless to say, the competition is huge. The question naturally arises: what is such an incredible amount for? The fact is that sperm have a difficult path to overcome, a real quest awaits them after entering a woman’s body: they need to get through the aggressive environment of the vagina, penetrate into the uterus and climb the fallopian tubes before the desired goal is achieved – a meeting with the egg.
In addition, it is necessary that the winning sperm has ideal characteristics and be able to overcome the last frontier – to dissolve the egg membrane. All this has a limited amount of time. Sperm of different ages are present in the ejaculate, since the process of spermatogenesis is continuous. How many sperm cells mature from conception to readiness for conception depends on the individual characteristics of the man.
As you can see, nature has carefully approached the process of the birth of a new life and set very strict criteria. The question of how long sperm cells live in different environments cannot but be of interest when planning conception, especially if it is complicated for some reason.
During fertilization, seminal fluid enters the aggressive environment of the vagina, the acidity of which is about 4 pH, which is detrimental to sperm. Within two hours after intercourse, most of them die in the vagina, and the surviving “squad” moves on to the cervix, which is filled with special mucus. Its main purpose is to prevent the penetration of harmful microorganisms into the uterus, but the same barrier can be difficult to overcome for sperm, for example, due to the increased viscosity of cervical mucus.
After successfully overcoming the cervix, a small group of sperm in the amount of about 10 million remains. They have to climb the fallopian tubes to the ovaries, overcoming the resistance of the fluid flow, which moves in the opposite direction, from the ovaries to the uterus.
Finally, an egg appeared ahead. The goal is close! It remains to overcome only two obstacles – the radiant crown and the shiny shell of the egg. Here the spermatozoa face the final test: the efforts of several spermatozoa are required to destroy the radiant crown. The one who does not die in the last fight will get to the shiny shell and merge with the egg, thereby realizing the birth of a new life.
Sperm life span in different environments
It is believed that, on average, a sperm with an X chromosome is viable for 3-4 days, while a carrier of the Y chromosome lives only about a day. Data are given for ideal conditions. And how long do sperm cells live in the body and in the external environment?
After intercourse, some of the semen is retained in the urethra. In such conditions, the sperm cell remains viable from 10 minutes to 2 hours. Important! If during the break between sexual intercourse, hygiene procedures were not carried out and there was no urination, the sperm remaining in the urethra can participate in fertilization even in the event of an interrupted intercourse.
On the surface of the penis, sperm can survive from 30 minutes to 2 hours. When dry, the sperm forms a film on the surface of the skin, in which living cells can be stored. But they no longer pose a danger, since in the absence of a liquid component they quickly die in an acidic environment.
In the vagina, the ability of sperm to fertilize is maintained for 1–2 hours.
Uterus and fallopian tubes
How many days sperm cells live in the uterus and genital tract of a woman depends largely on the time of ovulation, on the eve of which the acidity of cervical mucus is optimal. Under these conditions, the sperm can live from 3 to 8 days.
Those who prefer protected sex are often interested in how long it takes for sperm to die in a condom. A protective lubricant causes instant death of male germ cells, and without it, they can live from several minutes to 2 hours.
Sperm cells live in the air for no more than 1–2 hours, and in direct sunlight they die within 15–20 minutes.
How much sperm are active in regular tap water? Almost not at all, this environment is too aggressive for them.
The shelf life of frozen semen in a test tube is practically unlimited. If the storage regime is observed after thawing, the spermatozoa are active and can be used for fertilization.
Causes of sperm death
The process of spermatogenesis starts in adolescence and continues until venerable years. How much sperm mature depends on the individual, but usually this interval is from 68 to 75 days.
These cells are created to perform one single function – the fertilization of the egg, so the conditions for their survival are very strict. Spermatozoa die when dry, high temperature, bright light and in an acidic environment.
The optimum temperature for maintaining the viability of spermatozoa in the male body is + 34 … + 35 ℃. The final maturation of the sperm takes place in the testes outside the body. A temperature rise above +38 ℃ is detrimental to sperm cells, while freezing at -196 ℃ guarantees them almost eternal life.
How to increase the lifespan of sperm cells
To increase the vitality of sperm, you should follow simple rules:
- give up bad habits (smoking, drinking alcohol);
- wear loose underwear;
- conduct moderate physical activity;
- include in the diet foods rich in vitamin C and selenium, or take them additionally as directed by a doctor;
- observe a sleep and rest regimen.