Is it possible for a woman to get pregnant several days after having sex? There are three requirements for pregnancy to happen: a viable egg, healthy and motile sperm, and an environment that is friendly to establishing the pregnancy. The question is: how long can sperm remain alive and healthy in the woman’s body?
How Long Can Sperm Live Inside the Body?
Inside the body
When sperm are deposited into the woman’s vagina, the sperm begin a journey up through the woman’s vagina and in through the cervix on the way to the uterus. The sperm swim through the mucous that is produced by the woman’s body. The warm and moist reproductive tract is the perfect environment for the sperm. In this perfect environment, the heartiest of the sperm might live as long as five days – and as long as the sperm are alive, pregnancy is possible. Most sperm will die within the first day or two even in the perfect environment of the woman’s body.
In Other Circumstances
Where the sperm are deposited is the most important predictor of how long they will live. Sperm that do not make it to the woman’s upper reproductive tract will usually die in the vagina within a few hours. In more hostile environments such as outside the human body, sperm will typically die within a few minutes.
Sperm in a dry and cool environment cannot live long because they require warmth and humidity to survive. As soon as semen dries, the sperm in the ejaculate have died. Sperm may survive in warm bath water for some length of time, but the risk of becoming pregnant in this circumstance is low since the semen is diluted and it is unlikely that a sperm will find its way into the woman’s vagina. If there are bubbles or other substances in the water, it is likely that the sperm will be killed by these substances.
How Long Can an Egg Live?
A woman’s egg is released from the ovary and will journey through the Fallopian tube. If it is not fertilized by a sperm, the egg will die within about 12 to 24 hours. During this time, if a live sperm enters the egg, fertilization can occur – even if the sperm has been in the woman’s body for several days.
Chances of Pregnancy
Based on the amount of days a sperm can live inside the female body, we can easily infer that sex even five days before ovulation can lead to pregnancy. As long as one sperm remains alive, there is a chance of pregnancy. About 24 hours after ovulation, the risk of pregnancy disappears when the woman’s egg dies.
The World Health Organization reports that a healthy man’s semen will contain about 100 million sperm in each ejaculation. Most of these sperm will never complete the journey to the Fallopian tubes to meet up with the egg. Even for those sperm that do make the journey, the egg is well-protected and only the heartiest sperm will be able to penetrate the tough egg membrane. However, you should be aware that it only takes one sperm to make a woman pregnant.
How to Improve Sperm Health
If you and your partner want to get pregnant, there are several steps a man can take to ensure healthier sperm.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
One of the most important steps is to eat a healthy diet that is high in protein, rich in vegetables and fruit and low in fat. Eat fish, low-fat meat, eggs and plenty of whole grain foods. Nuts and seeds are thought to help increase sperm count – eat plenty of peanuts, cashews and sunflower seeds.
Just as important is to avoid certain foods. Soy products tend to increase estrogen levels which will cause a decreased production of sperm. High fructose foods can lead to insulin resistance which may also cause decreased sperm numbers. Some studies seem to indicate that drinking large amounts of caffeinated beverages may cause decreased sperm production.
2. Exercise Properly
Moderate exercise will help to increase testosterone levels and testosterone is critical for sperm production. Be aware that exercising too much can release hormones that will cause a decrease in testosterone. Work with a trainer or your healthcare provider to determine the level of exercise that will lead to the greatest production of testosterone and sperm. Avoid anabolic steroids that tend to build muscle, but may also cause your testicles to shrink. In addition to the other negative effects of steroids, they may also cause decreased sperm production.
3. Reduce Stress
The Mayo Clinic reports that increased stress can decrease your sperm production. Try to decrease the length of your work day if possible. If not possible, use relaxation and stress reduction techniques throughout the day. The hormones released during periods of stress may actually block the cells that regulate testosterone and sperm production. Get enough sleep each night. At least eight hours of sleep will help your body stay stress-free – and will help your sperm production.
4. Stop Smoking
Smoking tobacco or other substances may decrease your sperm production. In addition, smoking seems to affect the motility of sperm causing them to move slower. Smoking may also lead to deformities in sperm which may result in decreased effectiveness. Stop smoking to increase your chances of making a baby.
5. Quite Drinking
Drinking alcohol may result in liver problems. These liver problems may increase your estrogen levels and decrease your testosterone levels. Both of these levels are critical in determining how many sperm you will produce. The less alcohol you drink, the more likely you will be to produce more testosterone and sperm. Quit drinking if you can, but at least cut down on your alcohol consumption.
6. Stay Away from Toxins
Finally, stay away from chemicals and toxins. If your job requires you to use toxins, protect yourself by wearing protective clothing, breathing masks, and goggles. At home, use natural products for cleaning. Be aware that toxins can not only affect the number of sperm, but they can also cause defects in your sperm that can affect the motility and effectiveness of the sperm.