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Is There Such a Thing as Sperm Allergy?

What Are the Symptoms?

If you have a sperm allergy, it is common to develop vaginal burning, itching, and swelling within a few minutes after sex; however, these symptoms can also develop within an hour or two after intercourse. Some of the other common symptoms of an allergic reaction to semen may include:
 
  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Generalized hives (welts)
  • Trouble breathing, such as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fainting
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Dizziness
  • Anaphylaxis (a life-threatening reaction).
 
Symptoms of a sperm allergy are not always confined to the vaginal area. They can occur anywhere on the body that has come into contact with semen, including the mouth and skin. The duration of symptoms will also vary for each woman, with some lasting from a few hours up to a few days. Also, symptoms may stay in one main area (localized) or they may affect the woman's entire body (generalized).
 
While some of these reactions may develop after the first contact with seminal fluid, symptoms tend to occur most often months or years after initial contact. Research has also shown that these symptoms often occur for the first time a few weeks after childbirth or surgical procedures of the female genital tract.
 
It is often common for the allergic reaction to become worse over time, potentially even life-threatening. However, at this time, there have not been any reported deaths due to a sperm allergy.
 

What Causes an Allergic Reaction to Sperm?

It is natural (and usually beneficial) for the human body to fight against foreign organisms. While it's normal for the body to produce antibodies to protect against invading substances, in some cases, these antibodies are produced to fight against tissues of other individuals.
 
Antibodies were first discovered in the late nineteenth century. It was first believed that antibodies could only be produced against nonhuman foreign substances, which were primarily protein in nature. However, it was later discovered that antibodies could also be produced to fight against tissues of other individuals or even a person's own tissues.
 
It's important to note that the sperm themselves do not cause the adverse reaction; the allergic antibodies are formed to fight against specific proteins that are found in the liquid portion of the male ejaculate. A woman who has a semen allergy develops allergic antibodies, as her body recognizes semen as a foreign protein. In most cases, women who develop this allergy are also susceptible to developing allergic antibodies to other natural substances, such as foods and pollens.
 
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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