Seminal Plasma Sperm Allergy | Natural Health Blog

Date: 04/20/2013    Written by: Hiyaguha Cohen
Sperm allergy

Are You Allergic to Your Partner?

Imagine that you've just found the mate of your dreams, someone who "gets" you, laughs at your jokes, gives you affection and respect, and whose physical presence makes you go weak in the knees. All the pieces seem to be in place for a long and happy relationship--and then you sleep together. The passion certainly is there, but afterwards, she swells up and feels like her privates are on fire. It happens the next time, too, dashing your romantic hopes and leaving you wondering what's going on. Sound impossible--or like a one in a billion shot? Think again.

Up to 40,000 women in the US alone have a condition known as "seminal plasma allergy," which means they're allergic to their partner's sperm.1 Or more accurately, they're allergic to a particular protein in their partner's sperm. These women aren't necessarily allergic to the sperm of every man. It's just one particular protein in that one particular man's semen that they react to. The woman's symptoms can be minor or severe, depending on the intensity of the sperm allergy. Localized symptoms include pain, itching, and raw, burning skin in the vaginal area, but the symptoms also can be systemic, including abdominal swelling, wheezing, diarrhea, dizziness, shortness of breath, hives, and complete loss of consciousness.2 Yes--the sperm allergy can cause passing out right after lovemaking--but not like you read about in romance novels. The symptoms tend to get worse over time, progressing to the point where they can even become life-threatening.

Most women who have seminal plasma allergy have other allergies as well. They don't necessarily start out allergic to their partners, but over time, sensitivity develops. It can take months or even years for the allergy to kick in. The allergic reaction doesn't prevent pregnancy, as long as the woman can stand the side effects well enough to engage in intercourse.

The good news is that the condition can be controlled through a process of desensitization. To accomplish this, the patient undergoes allergy testing to isolate the troublesome protein. The next step is a series of injections, timed about 15-20 minutes apart over a two to three-hour period.  The injections consist of dilute semen--including the protein--from the male partner. After the injections, the couple has to have intercourse within twelve hours or the desensitization won't work. In fact, they must have intercourse at least a few times a week from that point going forward or the effects will wear off. The more sex, apparently, the better the results. No, really! That's part of the therapy.

Usually, the procedure leads to complete tolerance, assuming the couple does their homework. The entire process, from testing through injections, takes about three days, and it's no bargain. Insurance doesn't necessarily cover it, and the price tag runs about $4,000. On the other hand, it usually works, so it can be a relationship saver.

The process is similar to one used to desensitize patients who have bee allergies, minus the sex part. It's a method known as immunotherapy. According to the Asthma and Allergy Federation of America, the approach works 97 percent of the time for bee stings, but it's necessary for the patient to continue getting shots for at least three to five years.3 That makes the one-day treatment for semen allergy look like a walk in the park. For people who have had particularly severe reactions to bee stings, the regimen is far worse. They may need to continue getting the shots for their entire lives. The bee sting treatments cost up to around $4000 the first year, plus another $1000 for allergy testing. The cost goes down in subsequent years, but it nevertheless still will run a few thousand annually.

But back to sperm. Although semen sensitivity is far more common than typically assumed, most medical professionals don't think of it when women present with vaginal burning and hives. Typically, their symptoms are attributed to a yeast or vaginal infection and treated accordingly. If that doesn't fix it, there are many other conditions that share some of the symptoms of sperm allergy--at least the localized symptoms--including pelvic inflammatory disease, lice, cellulitis, and vaginal dryness.

Even if the doctor does suspect that the patient has an allergy, she might target the wrong source. She'd be more likely to suspect that the patient is reacting to a spermicide, if the patient uses one. Spermicides also can cause burning and hives, and about three to five percent of all women experience these symptoms as a result of using the most common spermicide, Nonoxynol 9.4 As with semen allergy, the reaction to spermicide can be quite serious--and even fatal. 

Another sex-related allergy that causes similar symptoms can arise from using condoms or diaphragms that contain latex. Given that five percent of the general population is allergic to latex (make that 15 percent among health-care workers), it's a relatively common problem.5 Plus, frequent exposure to latex can cause a new allergic reaction to develop, so that people who aren't allergic to latex to begin with can develop an allergy over time if they wear latex gloves--or condoms--every day.

  • 1. James, Susan Donaldson. "Allergy to Husband's Sperm Was Game-Changer in Marriage." 10 April 2012. ABC News. 11 April 2013. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/allergy-sperm-game-changer-marriage/story?id=18916973#.UWdi6zfp_kc
  • 2. "Seminal Plasma Allergy." 11 April 2013. http://www.seminalplasmaallergy.org/index.php
  • 3. More, Daniel, MD. "Bee Sting Treatment." 14 September 2011. About.com. 11 April 2013. http://allergies.about.com/od/insectallergies/a/venomallergy_3.htm
  • 4. Wolf, Nicole. "Nonoxynol 9 Allergy Symptoms." 31 March 2011. Livestrong.com. 11 April 2013. http://www.livestrong.com/article/170051-nonoxynol-9-allergy-symptoms
  • 5. http://www.latexallergyinfo.com

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Comments

  •  
    Submitted by Jenni on
    November 12, 2014 - 7:55pm
    Longmont , Colorado

    More of a question then a comment:

    I am a 26yo female (as in, I'm very content being single and, unlike in the past, am not currently urging for a constant companion that would come with being in a relationship, no urge to cuddle after sex, no urge to hold hands, exchange sweet words, etc.), but I do believe that I have entered my first adult sexual peak. So, I have found two men, both 32yo, who are willing to engage in no-strings-attached sex.

    Sex with Guy1 has occurred a dozen times, always with a condemn, and always no matter how rough it gets, I always feel amazing afterwards, never any pain.

    Sex with Guy2 has occurred 8 times, twice without a condemn, and even though other times have been rougher, the two times proceeding unprotected sex was spent with me curled into a ball with undoubted uterus inflammation. I felt like my cervix was on fire. The sex itself was painless, the inflamed feeling only occurred after and lasted a couple hrs.

    Had unprotected sex with Guy2 4 nights ago and was doubled over in pain (resembling menstrual cramps) for 2hrs. I decided that it HAD to be an STI causing this sort of inflammation, but it was the weekend, no clinics open, no time off on Monday, so I'll get tested on Tue.

    Was tested on Tue. (yesterday) with results not in yet. Had protected sex with Guy1 today, certain that there would be pain to follow (because if it is an STI causing inflammation in my uterus, then my uterus would hurt afterward no matter what). But, the sex ended, pain didn't happen. Felt amazing even.

    So, here's the question part of it:
    Is it possible that I was reacting to an allergy and this is what caused the pain or is there some sort of bacteria that could be present that is causing the inflammation, or is it actually possible for Guy2's sperm to actually be made of battery acid (the thought that kept running through my head while I was doubled over Saturday night)?

    The symptoms to unprotected sex with Guy2 were all localized, included pain, burning, itching, and I never checked for redness. Symptoms lasted 2hrs both times.

  •  
    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    November 17, 2014 - 11:14am

    Yes, as the article points out, semen contains a number of proteins, some of which can produce allergic reactions with symptoms similar to those you described. Your physician should be able to test for that—or refer you to someone who can. And as you suggested, you might also want to check for possible STD’s

  •  
    Submitted by Jessica on
    January 10, 2015 - 12:53am
    mesa , Arizona

    I was curious as to how long the symptoms last?

  •  
    Submitted by Brittany on
    January 27, 2015 - 12:57pm
    Orlando , Florida

    My fiance and I first started having unprotected sex in September of 2013, and by February 2014, I started breaking out with small reactions, in isolated spots on my arms. I have done biopsies, and have seen a number of healthcare professionals about the problem. They first thought it was maybe a reaction to the medication that I have been taking for 5+ years for RA, but since they have taken me off that medication, I am still breaking out, and it is not only on my arms, but ALL OVER my body. It has been almost a full year now, and they have not cleared up, and it could be my imagination, but i feel like the rash always flares throughout the day, after we've had sex. The ONLY thing that has changed, from no rash to rash, is my partner...What is the best way to go about determining if I'm allergic to the love of my life? :-( Which Dr would be best to see, because I have seen a primary, a dermatologist AND my rheumatologist about this.

  •  
    Submitted by jill kennedy on
    March 9, 2015 - 8:35pm
    parma , Ohio

    I know a friend that has gotten what first were told by doctors that she had spider bites on various places of her body. But it's now clear that this is NOT a spider! Coincidentally, she started getting these "bite-like" hives all over her body since her new boyfriend came along. They are extremely itchy,are extremely painful,become very swollen, feel very hot, take about a week to go away, leave scars,and all this started when they started having intercourse. Does ANYONE that has suffered this same sorta experience have any photo's of these hives and/or advice? Plz and Thank u in advance! -Jill Kennedy

  •  
    Submitted by Brianne on
    February 10, 2015 - 1:44am
    Edmonton, Alberta ,

    I've been with my boyfriend for over a year now, and each time we partake in sexual endeavors, he finishes in me. I haven't gotten pregnant, but my periods have been heavier and messier then usual and I thought it was the birth control so I stopped taking it for a while but its still the same. He has two children ( one of which was conceived on the first go), and I've been pregnant before ( ironicly the first time as well) so we both know we are able. I unfortunately had to abort because I was unbearably sick and the medication didn't help. Is it possible that our genes are incompatible? Or might there be another reason?

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