We all know what needs to happen in order for a woman to get pregnant - an egg must be released, sperm must reach the egg, and the egg must fertilise. Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not, knowing this information is going to be a good thing. This is most definitely the case if you are actively trying to have a baby.
How Long Can Sperm Live Inside the Body?
If the sperm does not reach the upper urinary tract is not expected to live longer than a couple of hours. If the sperm doesn’t even make it to the vagina, it is likely to die within a few minutes. Sperm live much longer when they are inside the body, rather than outside of it. They require a warm, humid and moist environment to survive, and the cool and dry environment offered outside of the female reproductive systems kill them off very quickly. As soon as the semen - the fluid the sperm is contained in - has dried, the sperm has essentially died. It is thought that the sperm may live longer in a warmer and moister environment, for example, in a warm bath, but at this stage the sperm would be very heavily diluted. There is still a chance that you could get pregnant in this manner, but the chances of it happening are incredibly slight. It is also unlikely that the sperm will find their way from the water into the vagina without a little assistance. That’s before you begin to think about bath bubbles and other substances, which will probably kill the fragile and sensitive sperm off immediately.
Inside the Body
When sperm is inside the female body, things are a little different. The wet and warm environment offered by the female vagina gives the sperm the right conditions to live as long as possible to reach their end destination - that egg. After ejaculation occurs in the vagina, the sperm swim through, using the semen and female vaginal lubricant (mucus) to help them, in an attempt to reach the uterus. The vaginal area provides the perfect features for the sperm to survive, and in a very perfect environment, it is believed that sperm can live for up to five days and perhaps a little longer. As long as the sperm are alive in the female body, she can still get pregnant, especially if it is around the time that an egg is released. The majority of the sperm will die in the female body within two or three days.
How about the Egg?
So, sperm can live for no time at all outside of the female body, and for up to five days within the female body. But what about the egg that the female produces? How long does that last?
After it’s release from the ovary, the egg travels through the fallopian tube, and if it is not fertilised by a healthy sperm, it will die within a matter of days - usually 24-48 hours. If there are live sperm still in the body around this time, the egg can become fertilised.
Chances of Getting Pregnant
Essentially you can get pregnant if you have sex for up to a week before that egg is released, and up to two days afterwards. If you know when your ovulation occurs, you can keep track of this to help you get pregnant, or avoid getting pregnant. Within two days after ovulation, the chances of getting pregnant are slim to none - the egg will have died.
How Much Sperm is Needed?
So, you know how long sperm lasts, and now you know how long the egg will last in your body. If you are trying to get pregnant, how much sperm do you need to fertilise the egg?
In reality, you only need one fully-functioning and working sperm to reach the egg and fertilise it in order to get pregnant. The reason that so many sperm are released is because the journey to the egg is quite a complex and dangerous one. So many sperm just don’t make it that far. The more sperm you have, the higher the chance of reproduction.
The WHO (World Health Organization) has reported that when a healthy adult male ejaculates, there will be somewhere in the region of one hundred million sperm. This seems like a staggering figure, but the majority of these won’t make it to their required destination - that egg being released from the fallopian tube. If the sperm does make it, there’s still no guarantee that the egg will be fertilised. There is quite the membrane surrounding the egg, and it would take the toughest of sperm to penetrate it. Most of the sperm in the ejaculate just isn’t strong enough to do the job.
Despite this, however, it still only takes just the one sperm to fertilise that egg, so you should never take chances. If you don’t want to get pregnant, use the appropriate precautions - use contraception.
Can You Improve Sperm Health?
There are actually many steps you and your partner can take in order to boost the health of his sperm:
By eating a healthy and balanced diet, the overall health of your male body will improve (and female, for that matter). You should aim for a diet that is rich with protein, eating the appropriate amount of fresh fruit and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, and also ensuring that you’re not eating too much when it comes to fat and sugar.
There are some foods that are well-known to improve your sperm health, and these will include low-fat, lean meats, whole grain foods, fish and eggs. You should also look at increasing the amount of sunflower seeds, peanuts and cashews that you eat also if you want to improve sperm health.
There are certain foods you should try and avoid when you’re trying to improve the health of your sperm, and these include:
Soy products - these foods have actually been shown to decrease testosterone levels in the body by increase oestrogen levels.
High fructose foods - these foods can reduce sperm numbers and decrease sperm health by increasing insulin resistance.
Caffeinated beverages - Studies have indicated a link between low sperm numbers and health, and a diet rich in caffeinated drinks. This would suggest that the more caffeinated drinks you consume, the higher the chances your sperm will suffer as a result of it, either in numbers or in strength and mobility.
Just as important as eating healthy, the right amount of exercise will ensure that your body produces the right amount of testosterone, and when this happens, your sperm will be in greater numbers, and with greater strength and mobility backing them also.
On the other hand, exercising too frequently, or pushing yourself too much, is very bad for your sperm. It could block the production of testosterone by increasing the production of other hormones.
There are some great workout advice sheets on the internet which you can follow, but a beginner should aim for thirty minutes of exercise, three to four times per week. Ideally you will want to be partaking in some sort of sweat-inducing activity daily, even if that’s the 20-minute brisk walk to work in the morning. Steroids might seem like a great idea if you want to bulk up, but this again can wreak havoc with your regular hormone replacement, and this could have a detrimental effect on your sperm, both in terms of strength and mobility, and in numbers also.
Reducing stress is very obviously much easier said than done, but it’s one of the best things you can do to ensure your little swimmers are in tip-top condition. There are a number of exercises you can do to reduce your stress levels in the midst of a crisis, and deep breathing and other meditation methods can often help. Where possible, try to set aside fifteen to twenty minutes of your day to spend just as YOU wish. This could be a lunch break, for example, where you enjoy a nice cup of green tea in the sun.
You should also try to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night also. If you are experiencing lack of sleep, or disrupted sleeping patterns, you will find that your mood is affected, and this is because your stress levels are increased. Once again, this will be a bad cycle and have negative effects on your sperm.
If you drink alcohol to excess, and smoke cigarettes, and / or take recreational drugs, you should stop. Smoking has been proven in hundreds and thousands of studies around the world to have a very bad effect on your sperm, and it can have a long-term detrimental effect on your overall and long-term health also. Drinking can cause liver problems, messing up the production of hormones in your body, and this can encourage the production of oestrogen and the decrease in testosterone levels.