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Allergic to Sperm: The Curious Case of Sperm Allergy

As uncommon as it may sound, there are people who are allergic to sperm. Known as seminal plasma hypersensitivity in the medical community, “sperm allergy” affects thousands of women in the United States. Ironically, men can also be allergic to their own sperm. While the condition is generally referred to as a type of allergy, it is not entirely so.

But the term may have been generally derived from the fact that it involves an overreaction of the body’s immune system to the sperm; thus, the term “sperm allergy.” In addition, the symptoms displayed are basically similar to other forms of allergies. However, the proper term for this misunderstood condition is “antisperm antibodies.”

The condition of being allergic to sperm

Allergic reactions to sperm, or the semen, have been reported to affect both men and women, although the causes of the occurrences vary. This condition occurs when the immune system overreacts after exposure to proteins in the semen, mistaking the male fluids as harmful bacteria or viruses and subsequently countering it.

For many affected women, it develops after unprotected sexual intercourse. In men, although rare, the condition may arise after their own semen comes into contact with their blood, such as in a vasectomy, or after they perform sexual acts with another male.

“Sperm allergy” typically occurs within 5 to 30 minutes after semen contact and can last for hours or even days. Symptoms usually include:

  • Redness, swelling and burning of the area, typically in the external genital region, where semen contact occurred
  • Systemic responses like hives, vaginal redness, itching, and blisters
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of consciousness and breathing difficulties in severe instances
  • Infertility, in many cases
  • Due to the allergic reactions, fertility problems usually crop up. Once the semen is attacked by the woman’s white blood cells, the sperm is prevented from reaching the female’s egg, thereby, foiling the reproductive process.

Treating antisperm antibodies

It is crucial for women to be thoroughly evaluated for the condition by a gynecologist or a urologist to determine the cause of the symptoms. The assessment can also rule out other possibilities, such as an underlying sexually transmitted disease, as allergic reactions from semen can be improperly identified as yeast infections, vaginal infections and herpes.

The simplest way to avoid the symptoms that develop after being exposed to semen would naturally be to use protection during intercourse. The allergic reactions can also be controlled by taking antihistamines, which ease the symptoms.

Women with less than severe cases can deal with the problem through desensitization. The process involves subjecting the patient to semen, the quantities of which are gradually increased over time. A temporary solution, desensitization is meant to gradually help the female tolerate semen exposure.

Couples want to get pregnant can resort to artificial insemination (AI) if desensitization does not result to positive outcomes. AI can be recommended with semen that has gone through a process that involved removal of proteins.

Individuals who are allergic to sperm have various options. But to be certain that they get proper treatment, they first have to get proper testing and diagnosis.