Skip to content

Infertility & Reproduction Health Center

Select An Article

Sperm FAQ

Font Size

If it takes just one sperm and one egg to create a baby, why must men make so many sperm? And how many sperm are considered normal? How long do sperm live? Can they survive outside the body? Do men stop making sperm as they age? Is there anything you can do to increase sperm production or improve the health of your sperm?

WebMD takes a look at the facts about sperm and answers these and other frequently asked questions.

Recommended Related to Infertility & Reproduction

Womb for Rent: Surrogate Mothers in India

By Abigail Haworth Customer service, tech support...these days we outsource everything to India. So why not pregnancy? Here is a report on the growing number of Indian women willing to carry an American child. The midday sun is ferociously hot outside the Akanksha Infertility Clinic, a scuffed concrete building in the small Indian city of Anand. Crammed into a single patch of shade by the gate, a stray cow and a family of beggars — caked so uniformly in dung-colored dust they...

Read the Womb for Rent: Surrogate Mothers in India article > >

How long do sperm live?

The answer depends on a number of factors, the most important of which is where the sperm are located. On a dry surface, such as clothing or bedding, sperm are dead by the time the semen has dried. In water, such as a warm bath or hot tub, sperm will likely live longer because they thrive in warm, wet environments; however, the chances sperm in a tub of water will find their way inside a female bather and cause her to become pregnant are extremely low.

Inside a woman's body, sperm can live for up to five days depending on the conditions. If you have unprotected sex even a few days before your partner ovulates, there is a chance of achieving a pregnancy.

 

How many sperm do you need to achieve a pregnancy?

It takes just one sperm to fertilize an egg and achieve a pregnancy, but for each sperm that reaches and fertilizes an egg, there are millions that don't. The average ejaculation contains close to 100 million sperm; according to the World Health Organization, men who have fewer than 20 million sperm per milliliter of semen may be at risk for having infertility issues.

Why are so many sperm released if it takes only one to make a baby? To meet the waiting egg, the semen must travel from the vagina to the fallopian tubes, an arduous journey that few sperm survive. For those that complete the trip, penetration of the egg is far from a sure thing. The egg is covered by a thick layer that makes fertilization difficult. Experts believe this process may be nature's way of allowing only the healthiest sperm to fertilize the egg, thereby providing the best chances to produce a healthy baby.

 

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Four pregnant women standing in a row
How much do you know about conception?
Couple with surrogate mother
Which one is right for you?
 
couple lying in grass holding hands
Why Dad's health matters.
couple viewing positive pregnancy test
6 ways to improve your chances.
 
Which Treatment Is Right For You
Slideshow
Conception Myths
Article
 
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
Video
Conception
Slideshow
 
Charting Your Fertility Cycle
Article
Fertility Specialist
Article
 
Understanding Fertility Symptoms
Article
invitro fertilization
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections