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!
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.