8 myths you should stop believing about sperm

Microscopic view of sperm.

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Microscopic view of sperm.
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Komsan Loonprom/Shutterstock

  • Lots of common myths about sperm and ejaculation isn’t actually true.
  • From the amount of ejaculation to sperm quality, there is a lot of information that people get wrong.

Update: A previous version of this article contained quotes from an expert whose credentials are now in question. We have reached out to him for confirmation of those credentials and have not heard back. You can read Gizmodo’s investigation here, and his response here. INSIDER has updated this article as of 3/1/19.

Most people with penises produce between 39 million to 929 million sperm per ejaculation, according to the World Health Organization. But how much do you really know about sperm?

We debunked some common myths about sperm that you probably still believe.


MYTH: You can’t get pregnant from pre-ejaculate or “pre-cum.”

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Pre-ejaculate can contain sperm.
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Stefan Malloch/Shutterstock

Most of the time, pre-ejaculate – the semen-like fluid that sometimes comes out of a penis before ejaculation – is just a lubricating substance produced by the prostate. However, there is a small chance that it might contain enough viable sperm to result in a pregnancy, according to Healthline.

If you’re concerned with avoiding pregnancy, using a barrier method like a condom is always a good idea.


MYTH: Semen has a high nutritional content if swallowed.

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Semen has fructose but you won’t get any nutritional benefits.
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Shutterstock/Image Point Fr

Sorry – semen isn’t a good replacement for your daily multivitamin.

Though a healthy diet has been shown to improve semen quality, consuming semen itself won’t have much of an impact on your nutrition.


MYTH: Sperm can live for days on items like sheets, towels, and underwear.

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Sperm can live inside the body for five days, but can’t survive outside the body.
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Shutterstock

Sperm can’t normally live on clothing, skin, and other surfaces for longer than a few moments. When semen dries or is exposed to extreme temperatures, the ability for the sperm in that semen to fertilize an egg diminishes significantly.

However, sperm can live inside the uterus for up to five days. This is why it’s technically possible to get pregnant as a result of unprotected sex during menstruation.


MYTH: Sperm quality stays the same for a person’s entire life.

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Sperm quality changes as you age.
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Shutterstock

It’s true that people with male reproductive organs can usually keep having children as long as they are able to produce sperm. However, that doesn’t mean that the quality of that sperm won’t change over the years.

This means that the quality of sperm tends to decrease with age. There is also some evidence that the risk of miscarriage may increase with paternal age.


MYTH: The foods you eat don’t affect your semen.

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Eating healthy can help you sperm.
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Flickr/Sonny Abesamis

Maintaining a healthy diet is great for your overall health, but eating well may also help keep your sperm in good shape. The Mayo Clinic noted that a healthy diet can be one of the most important factors in making sure your sperm is viable.


MYTH: How much semen someone produces is the most important part of fertility.

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The amount of semen doesn’t dictate fertility levels.
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Warner Bros. Television

When it comes to getting someone pregnant, the amount of semen isn’t the only important factor. According to the Mayo Clinic, it matters how mobile your sperm is and what their structure is.

This means that as long as ejaculate has enough high-quality sperm, it will generally be able to fertilize an egg no matter the volume of the semen itself.


MYTH: Tight pants and underwear don’t actually have much of an effect on sperm.

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Underwear and jeans can effect sperm count.
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nickpo/ iStock

Tight garments do actually have a measurable effect on fertility. Sperm cells require a precise temperature balance to remain viable. Clothing or underwear that constricts the testicles and holds them close to the body actually raises their internal temperature, decreasing the quality and number of the sperm within.


MYTH: All sperm basically behaves the same way.

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Not all sperm is created equal.
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Bobjgalindo / Wikimedia Commons

A person’s sperm is as individual as they are. Besides carrying unique genetic information, sperm can actually act differently from person to person.

Keeping fit and free of a disease can ensure your sperm behaves in a way that increases the chances of successful conception and healthy offspring.