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Author Topic: Sperm survival
sunrain20
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Hey,

sorry that I am addressing this topic again but I after reading through this really helpful site, I still have questions.

My practical Problem is, that I masturbatet two days ago in the evening. I wiped everything off with a tissue. After that, I went to my girlfriend and we cuddled for a while. One hour after my masturbation at home, I fingered her. Now, I want to find out if there was still a risk for pregnancy in this situation? Could there still have been sperm alive on my fingers?

On one hand this site really helped me, because most of the time, your experts are talking about a sperm survival time of around 20 minutes. I guess this would mean that I am safe.

However there is an information that confuses me:
http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/are_my_sperm_still_squirming
In this link the answer cites a Doctor Harms who says that sperm die within a few hours. Since you still have this on your site I was wondering if you could clarify how those to information go together. Around 20 Minutes on one hand, and within a few hours on the other.

Thank you so much in advance!

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Heather
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No.

I mean, whether we're talking about what we say, or that doctor cited says, it should still be clear that sperm are delicate, don't last very long outside the body, and once the fluid they are in is gone or dried -- which wiping would take care of -- they're not going to cause a pregnancy.

Mind, just to help not put bacteria in your girlfriend's genitals which can create imbalances or infections for her, handwashing before you put your hands or fingers on her vulva is something you want to do (it's also really just polite: I mean, we wash our hands before eating, you know?). But this creating a pregnancy is not something you need to be worried about.

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sunrain20
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Thank you very much for this fast answer! That is a real relief and I will definitively wash my hands first in the future!

So I brought up the question about the few hours the doctor talked about because of the following point: I know that I wiped the sperms away with two tissues. However I am worrying if very small rests of sperm could still have been on my hand. Would they have been dried out? Or would the few hours survival time apply for them?

I really appreciate your work and after this post I wont take more of your time so you can continue helping others as well.

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Heather
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The thing I think you're missing with this is that sperm need the seminal fluid they're part of. Without them, they can't get anywhere, nor can they be preserved well.

That's why worrying about sperm cells when seminal fluid has been wiped away, washed off or dried up doesn't make sense. Does that help clear things up for you?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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sunrain20
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Thank you, that really helped clear things for me! And if I understood this right, only the seminal fluid keeps sperm alive and no other fluids? So it would not matter if there is sweat on the skin or not?
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Heather
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Seminal fluid is really specific stuff in large part because of what sperm cells need: for getting sperm cells to an egg to fertilize it (when it happens), as it works to counteract the acidic nature of the vagina, which doesn't bode well for sperm at all.

So, yep: sperm cells really, really need that fluid. Sweat or saliva or lube aren't the same.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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sunrain20
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Hey Thank you! I was looking around in some more other posts and I got confused because in some topics, Volunteers state that there is no danger if sperm is inserted from the hand into the vagina, if it is not a handful of fresh sperm.

Quote from "September"
"Beyond that, there really is no pregnancy risk from inserting a finger that's been exposed to ejaculate into your vagina: unless you are directly inserting a handful of fresh ejaculate, there is no risk of pregnancy from 'transferring' ejaculate."
http://www.scarleteen.com/forum/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/27/t/023785.html#000001

Can you explain that difference between some minutes (approximately 20) to dry for the sperm and the statement above? Thank you so much!

[ 04-09-2012, 09:15 AM: Message edited by: sunrain20 ]

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Heather
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Again, the issue with that isn't about time: it's about the delicacy of sperm cells. They don't fare well without direct transfer in the fluid they're part of.

It might also help to know that the old adage "it only takes one sperm to create a pregnancy," isn't at all true. Only one cell -- when it happens -- fertilizes the egg, but for that one cell to do that, it takes at least a few hundred viable "helper" sperm to get that cell there and to penetrate the ovum.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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sunrain20
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Ok, I think I now got how this whole concept works. Let me rephrase this in my words. So, the important thing for sperm to not pose a risk for pregnancy is to be dry. The around twenty minutes you give are there to have an idea how long this usually takes on the human skin. Is that correct?

And if you write they don't fare well without direct transfer of the in the fluid does that mean that they can still move without the fluid? Because it would be more reassuring to know that they dont pose a risk at all without their fluid.

It feels really good to fill in the blanks in my sex education, so thank you for your patience.

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Heather
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Well, the important thing in preventing pregnancy is really simply not having any contact between penis and vagina and seminal fluid and vagina. Period. Without that, there aren't any risks.

But if and when there is genital contact but without any seminal fluid at all, then there still won't be pregnancy risks. The iffy bit there is pre-ejaculate, which people can't control or often feel. But even then, the risk is very low and may not even be present.

Once we get past those scanerios, pregnancy simply isn't likely, because without direct transfer, it's simply not at all likely for pregnancy to occur. And no: without fluid, sperm cells can't move around, and without the fluid they are specifically part of, they can't stay viable.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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sunrain20
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Thanks for this good summary. If you write "seminal fluid" in the first sentence this means only semen that are still wet and fresh? Dried sperm are not called seminal fluid anymore, right?
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Heather
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When I say seminal fluid, I mean fluid that comes out of the penis with ejaculation or pre-ejaculation when it is present and is fluid (not a dried up stain, for instance: then it's just a dry-cleaning nightmare. [Razz] ).

Sperm cells aren't something we ever call seminal fluid: they're in that fluid sometimes, but they aren't those fluids.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Heather
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(Apropos of nothing, every time I see the title of this thread, I misread it as "Sperm Survivor," and then visualize sperm cells competing with each other when abandoned on a tropical island. It's pretty amusing.)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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sunrain20
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That's an amusing picture indeed. Thanks for helping and your patience!
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sunrain20
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Hey!

Since I understood the concept of sperm and seminal fluid now the way you explained it, I stumbeled upon something that confuses me again.

http://www.scarleteen.com/forum/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/27/t/026985.html#000002

In this topic the Volunteer Ray definitively writes: "Sperm cells, whether they're dead or not, cannot create a pregnancy unless a bare penis is in direct contact with a bare vulva, or a bare vulva is being ejaculated onto....Once semen is exposed to air - let alone begins to dry - the sperm cells cannot go anywhere, so they cannot co-create a pregnancy." This would mean that pregnancy is only possible with direct genital contact or by ejaculating on the vulva.

However, the way you explained this stuff to me, it would also be possible to get pregnant via a hand transfer as long as there is enough seminal fluid on the hand.

Do all your Volunteers get the same training or can you explain me where those differences come from? I really don't mean to offend you or your crew. You are doing great work! It would be just nice to have a clarification.

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Heather
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Well, first, look at the context of that answer. I'd agree that the 'semen exposed to air" bit in the answer isn't quite right, especially since the body is full of oxygen, so sperm cells and semen have air as part of them and do just fine.

We don't train all of our volunteers the same way, it varies, but our volunteers (and me, too!) are also allowed to fumble sometimes, or misstate things. We do our level best to keep up with that and have ongoing staff conversations to keep things as accurate as possible.

Really, I think it's important to be practical and realistic about this stuff. No one is filling their hand with semen and rubbing it on a vulva who isn't trying to risk pregnancy, you know? (Or STIs for that matter.) As well, pregnancy occurring from manual sex, no matter how you slice it, is incredibly unlikely.

But here's what you need to know: anything that happened before now that may have been risky (or not)? It's in the past. Nothing to do about that now. Moving forward? Wash your hands before touching someone's vulva. Again, that's just good manners and also is mostly about doing the person with the vulva the kindness of reducing their risk of having to deal with BV or a yeast infection, neither of which are fun.

Pregnancy with this is pretty much a non-issue, but handwashing covers those bases, too.

I mean, seriously, just wash your hands, okay? [Smile] It's totally easy, takes seconds, and isn't something anyone has to wrack their brain over.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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sunrain20
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Thank you again for the explanation. I really did not mean to offend you or your team. Again, you are doing an awesome job and I really appreciate it. I am abroad at the moment, so I can't go to the places where I am ususally going with question like those, so this makes your help even more valuable. And I really was not implying that you would give wrong information or something. I just thought somebody else who did not get your information, but only the ones from the topic I quoted might get a wrong idea.

If you are not mad and still ok with helping me, I can maybe give you a little background and maybe you have an idea about what I could do in the future.

First of all, the girl I was worrying about got her period now. I guess that I can really stop worrying about this specific incident. And believe me, I learned my lesson and will take washing hands more serious in the future.

So I think for my anxiety there is a little more than just that incident. I had a really long relationship where my girlfriend used the NuvaRing and we used condoms all the time as well. This was because I am really scared about unintended pregancies. So even though we used both methods I tended to be pretty scared so that we stopped having sex for some time until I was calm again. Then a really good friend of mine had an unintended pregnancy with his girlfriend and they decided to do an abortion.

This incident made my anxiety worse and since then I have a tendency to freak out about things even if I know that there is no rational reason to do so. I just start thinking with a lot of "what ifs" and start constructing ways in that something could have happened. This is also the reason why I bugged you so much...

And when my head goes crazy, I just keep on googleing stuff. For example when she told me that she has her period I googled if period and pregnancy is possible and there were quite some entries saying it is. But I learned here that this is very rare, right? That is why I am also thankful that I found a reliable source like yours. And it is a reason why I was asking about the training because I would really like to fully trust you.

I think another reason for the anxiety could be that it is always the worst when there are changes in my life and instead of worrying about them, I project my fears into the pregnancy anxiety.

I am already 23 and really embarassed by my behaviour but only when I got my anxiety under control. When it is going on I am just very scared. Do you have any ideas what I could do?

Again thanks for the patience!!

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Heather
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No offense taken: we support questioning! [Smile]

It sounds like you are already identifying some things you know are making this work, like our frenemy Dr. Google. So, you know, then, you can help yourself moving forward by changing that behaviour, right?

You know, how about if we also talk about if you're really feeling okay with sexual activity at all now? Whether or not worries are reasonable, worries are worries, and if they're not going away, engaging in any kind of sex that amps our anxiety can be an unsound choice at a given time. If we just cannot deal with the anxiety it's causing us, it's usually more sound to put whatever kind of sex triggers that on hold for a bit while we first get some help with and make some progress with that anxiety.

Thoughts?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Saffron Raymie
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(You didn't offend me at all either! I also support questioning, and the 'semen exposed to air' remark wasn't sound, you're quite right. ~Ray [Smile] )

[ 04-10-2012, 06:47 PM: Message edited by: Saffron Reimi ]

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sunrain20
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Thanks you two for not taking my questions the wrong way..

Actually I really feel good while doing the sexual stuff. It is just that I am so scared of a pregnancy. I thought it would help to reduce my sexual activities to hand and oral sex. But as I have seen, even there I am starting to freak out.

A reason for this could also be that I feel that something that feels so good as sexual activities cannot be left "unpunished". That sounds weird, but since you have to pay a price for everything, I somtimes think that pregnancy could be the price that I have to pay for the pleasure of sex.

And one remark to the first topic again: If she has got her period at the usual time and in the usual form, I can be calm again, right? Espepecially since there seems to have been no risk to start with.

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sunrain20
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Hi Heather,
I really don't want to bother you and I know that double posts are forbidden. But I have been waiting for a comment on my last post for a week now and was wondering if you could give me you opinion on my thoughts and questions.
Thank you!

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Heather
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It's totally okay to bump posts when it's been at least a day or so and we've obviously missed them. So sorry about that.

So, yes, again, I don't think you have had any risk of pregnancy here and it appears your partner isn't pregnant.

I wonder if you might want to try and talk this through some:

quote:
A reason for this could also be that I feel that something that feels so good as sexual activities cannot be left "unpunished". That sounds weird, but since you have to pay a price for everything, I somtimes think that pregnancy could be the price that I have to pay for the pleasure of sex.
I'd actually say this kind of idea or fear is at the root of a whole lot of pregnancy scares. Pregnancy is often culturally presented as a punishment for sex that isn't socially sanctioned in some way (and yet, as a blessing when it is: go figure). As well, guilt about sex tends to often play a big role in pregnancy fears, and the fear that a person will be "punished" for sex.

So, I guess what I'd start by asking is who you think would be responsible for doling out a pregnancy-punishment, or any kind of punishment, for sex to you or your partner.

As well, how does this idea hold up when you consider how many of us in the world have engaged in sex often, including the kinds that actually pose a risk of pregnancy, without being "punished" by pregnancies?

One other thing I'd toss your way is thinking about the idea there has to be a price to pay for people feeling good. Do you feel that way about other things? For instance, let's say I help someone in need. That makes both of us feel good: is there a "price to pay" for that because it feels good?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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sunrain20
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Thank you for the answer! I kind of feel a little relieved that I am not the only one thinking in that way about sex.

And it is actually a reassuring thought that many people have engaged in real sexual activities without being pregnant.

I think the reason for my fears might also be the fact that I like the girl but that I for now only know that it is nice to be around her now and I can't tell if it will be like this forever. This kind of makes me feel like I am doing something wrong because it might like another girl in the future. But I guess you can never really know this, right?

I cannot really tell who would punish me for that but I feel dishonest or not serious enough and this is the point were I think the universe or whoever would not like that and therefore pose this "punishment" on me.

It sounds pretty messed up if I write it down like that but it also helpes me realize that this is a weird way of thinking.

You are right about the helping thing. Actually I am really trying to be a person who helps other people because I think if everybody did that the world would be a better place. However, I think that this is most of the time not the way the world works in reality.

Thanks for your thoughts on that in advance!

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Heather
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Well, I'd say that people having the same kinds of feelings for anyone forever never happens, since forever doesn't happen (as we all die), but that even people having the same kinds of feelings for a person through a lifetime is exceptionally rare.

What's more realistic and common is that, for any of us, we'll likely have more than one very important person or relationship in our lives -- and not all of those will be sexual or romantic, either -- and if we have sexual/romantic feelings, we're very likely to have them for more than just one person in a lifetime.

So, if that's what happens for you and that's wrong, well...almost all people in the world have been wrong in that way.

BUT. Perhaps what you might want to look at is what your own values are. For sure, some people's values are such that they only feel sex is okay for them and others they engage in any of it with if they have a certain kind of relationship or commitment, if they have certain feelings, if a certain amount of time has passed, etc. If you're engaging in sex that is counter to your own values, then yes, you're likely going to feel wrong about it.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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