Can you get pregnant from sperm on a wet towel?

Ask The Doctor > Sex > Can you get pregnant from sperm on a wet towel?

Patient: Hello! I have some silly questions, but my girlfriend is really freaked out right now. Today, I masturbated in the shower, and then wiped myself off. Around 3 hours later, she uses my towel to wipe herself off (she used my towel by accident) and she also used it to wipe her vagina. Now she’s afraid that she could’ve wiped my sperm on her vagina and have gotten her pregnant. So, her questions are:

1.) How long can sperm live on a wet towel?

2.) Can she get pregnant from this?

3.) How long can pre-cum live on a wet towel?

Symptoms: None, she is just stressed out over this.

Doctor: The life span of sperm after ejaculation depends on the circumstances. Theoretically speaking, fertilization is possible as long as the sperm remain alive. Sperm ejaculated into a woman’s vagina can live in a woman’s cervical mucus or upper genital tract for three to five days. On a dry surface, such as clothing or bedding, sperm are dead by the time the semen has dried. On wet surfaces, such as a wet towel, a warm bath etc. sperm will likely live longer because they thrive in warm, wet environments; However, the chances sperm on a wet towel will find their way inside your girl friend and cause her to become pregnant are extremely low. Precum is the pre-ejaculatory fluid produced from an aroused man’s penis. It usually does not contain live sperm unless the urethra or the passage of the semen in the man’s penis had residual sperm from a recent ejaculation. Such circumstances are rare and very unlikely. In your situation, the best way to avoid any stress would have been to use an emergency contraceptive pill also known as a morning after pill. Whenever in doubt, whether it is a broken condom or other situations such as this, it is better to be safe than sorry later on. My suggestion is that you make the most of this situation by attending a family planning clinic to learn more about emergency contraception and other contraceptive choices.

Comments / Follow Ups

Guest: Dear Doctor,
This is kind of the same situation that I am in just recently, but instead me and my bf had safe protected sex one or two days before this situation happened. After oral sex/intercourse, my bf went to go shower and washed off, he did not use soap with clean his penis but dried off with the towel. 2-3 days later before safe sex he went to shower first and then had sex. After sex, 7 hours later I went to have a shower and used his towel without realizing about the condition of becoming pregnant from this issue. The towel at the time was damp and it had came into contact with my genital area. Could this cause to pregnancy? Should I be taking the emergency contraceptive pill? As I am not due for my periods until mid-month. Me and my boyfriend is both concerned about this matter. Please help!

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Dr. Jimmy Obaji M.D.

Dr. Jimmy Obaji completed his residency in Family Medicine at the University of Manitoba. He currently operates a walk-in-clinic in downtown Toronto.

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