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Do you have to let it linger?

Posted by Condomologist on February 24, 2009

A friend wrote with a little story and question: A man and woman were having vaginal intercourse. He ejaculated, but then left his penis inside her vagina and proceeded to fall asleep. When he awoke 15-20 minutes later and pulled out, the condom was left behind, and semen may or may not have spilled into her vagina. His question was whether pregnancy could still occur in this instance. First off, this reminds me to point y’all to my instructions on how to put on a condom, in which we’re reminded to remove the penis while still erect to prevent this from happening. But it happened, so back to the question, which really boils down to, How long can sperm live when not in a woman’s body? Because once inside, the generally accepted fact is that sperm can live from 5-7 days (probably closer to 3-5 than 7), hanging out and waiting to fertilize an egg. But in this case, the best answer I could find — and as always, it’s difficult to make sure I’m using reputable sources, but I try my best — is a few hours, which is certainly enough time for just one of the tens of millions of sperm released during ejaculation to find its way to an egg — if, in fact, any semen spilled into her vagina. The folks over at Kinsey imply that as long as semen is fresh and wet, pregancy is a possibility; and this also goes to the common question of whether a woman can get pregnant if a man ejaculates outside the vagina and then somehow semen finds its way inside of her. Questions like these  — as well as, How long can HIV live outside the body? — are difficult to answer, because they’re difficult to test in real-world situation. Research can show that sperm or HIV are still alive in wet fluid in a laboratory, but as to whether they can lead to pregnancy or infection is another story altogether.


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