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How long do sperm live? Let’s talk sperm production

How Long Do Sperm Live - Let’s Talk Sperm Production

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How long do sperm live? We’re guessing you don’t know!  Sperm production isn’t exactly top of the curriculum when it comes to sex education – that spot is usually reserved for putting condoms on bananas…

If you’re hoping to become a father in the future, understanding how sperm production works can be really useful. It helps you get your head around time scales, plan ahead and make choices that are most likely to benefit your fertility. It can also make a huge difference if you are faced with fertility challenges – there’s nothing worse than feeling overwhelmed in a doctor’s office when you’re at your most vulnerable. 

However, the science can be pretty overwhelming – but we’ve broken it all down in our handy guide to sperm production. 

How long does sperm production take?


So, the first thing to understand is that fertile men are basically sperm factories. We’re constantly creating the stuff. But the process doesn’t happen overnight. On average it takes around 72 days for men to produce and mature new sperm – from start to finish – but of course, every man, everybody and every ball are different. 


What’s the process of sperm production?


Right, strap yourself in for a biology lesson. Sperm production – aka spermatogenesis – is the process by which your body makes sperm, and it’s pretty incredible. It all starts, not in your balls, but in your brain, or more specifically your hypothalamus. This clever part of your brain releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone, or GnRH. This hormone stimulates the anterior pituitary gland to secrete luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) – two really important hormones for conception and fertility, for both men and women. 

These two hormones make their way down to your testicles through the blood and get to work. 

LH encourages the Leydig cells to make testosterone, whilst the FSH acts on seminiferous tubules, an area of the testes where the magic of sperm production really happens. Once these hormones get going the process of actually creating new sperm cells in your testicles takes around 50 – 60 days. 

After this process is completed, the sperm move to the epididymis – the ducts behind the testicles that store and carry sperm until you ejaculate. But they’re not ready to go straight away! It takes another couple of weeks for the sperm to fully mature in the epididymis. That’s when you reach the 72 day period and you have a brand new set of swimmers ready to hit the road. 

“Because the process of sperm cell production and maturation takes around 3 months, men should start their preconception plan at least 3-6 months prior to the baby-making process. This way you can be proactive in boosting healthy spermatogenesis and improve your chances of conceiving”

Dr Fatin Willendrup, Head of Medical Affairs at ExSeed Health


How long do sperm live for?


Once your swimmers have reached maturity, they hang out in the epididymis until it’s game time. When you ejaculate, your sperm combines with fluid from seminal vesicles to make semen. 

If you don’t ejaculate, your body basically eventually breaks down the sperm cells and reabsorbs them. However, if you do ejaculate (lucky you!) then your swimmers are out in the world – and their life cycle is pretty short. If you ejaculate into a cup, sock or condom full of hot sauce, if you’re Drake – then sperm cells die within a few minutes. However, sperm can live for 3-5 days inside a woman’s cervix and womb – thanks to the presence of cervical mucus. This is really useful to bear in mind when trying to time sex for conception. 


What does this mean for my preconception plan?


When it comes to getting ready for baby-making, you can never be too proactive about it. It’s never too early to adopt a healthy lifestyle and drop bad habits. It’s always going to be good news for your fertility – and overall mental and physical health. 

However, with a new round of sperm production happening every 72 days, it does mean that you can potentially make a big impact in a relatively short period of time. The 3 months before you want to start trying for a baby are pretty crucial – real make or break time for your sperm quality. 

For example, if you spent December boozing, eating loads of chocolate and laying around on the sofa (which many of us do) and you do a sperm test in March – you might notice that your swimmers are struggling. The lifestyle choices you made back then could have had an effect on your hormone levels, oxidative stress, and heat around your testicles – all of which could have messed with your sperm production and caused poor quality. 

On the other hand, if you adopt a healthier lifestyle – getting plenty of sleep, regular exercise and eating sperm superfoods – 3 months ahead of trying to conceive, you’ll be giving your swimmers the best possible chance of making a baby. That’s why our 90 Day Bootcamp is such a useful tool for any guy looking to get fertility fit, we’ve seen huge improvements in sperm health from men going through the programme! 


But remember…


Not every guy is going to produce sperm in the same way. For some men, their sperm production process might not run so smoothly – even if they improve their lifecycle. This could be for a variety of reasons – from genetics to medical conditions. 

It is important to get tested proactively and speak to a specialist if you are concerned. It’s often hard to know if there are any issues with your sperm health until you get a test. Unfortunately, this generally doesn’t happen through doctors unless you are struggling to conceive. Our at-home sperm test lets you take things into your own hands and get to know your swimmers ahead of time. This not only gives you the opportunity to make lifestyle changes and see if there is any improvement but also access your options if it looks like there may be bigger issues at play – whether that’s assisted fertility treatments or looking at donor sperm.    


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More to explore

Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.


Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.


Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.


Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.


There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  


A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.


Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.