Is There Such a Thing as Sperm Allergy?

As weird as it sounds, sperm allergy is an actual medical condition. Women often discover it the first time they have intercourse, although symptoms may not appear right away. Possible signs include itching, burning, and swelling of the contact area. The easiest way to avoid an allergic reaction is to use a condom; antihistamines or a desensitization program are other options. Women who have a sperm allergy can still get pregnant.


Is It Really Possible to Be Allergic to Sperm?

Yes -- it is indeed possible for a woman to be allergic to sperm. Also called semen allergy, seminal plasma hypersensitivity (SPH), or seminal plasma protein allergy (SPPA), this is a rare type of allergic reaction to certain proteins that are found in a man's semen.
The way a sperm allergy is discovered can be different for each woman. A woman may discover she has a sperm allergy the first time she has sexual intercourse. However, it may happen after a woman has had other sexual partners without any problems. It can happen with one partner but not the other, and it can also happen suddenly with someone you have been in a sexual relationship with for a long time.

How Common Is It?

The first case of someone having an allergic reaction to semen was documented in 1958 in Germany. However, it is not exactly known how prevalent this condition is, due to the sensitive nature of the symptoms, misdiagnosis, and cases that go unreported. Also, many women who have a semen allergy may not be aware of it because they routinely use condoms.
It is estimated that less than 8 percent of women in the United States are affected by a semen allergy. Although reports of the condition in the scientific literature appear to be relatively rare, a clinical study of 1,073 women who had vaginal symptoms similar to those of a sperm allergy revealed that 130 of them (or 13 percent) did, in fact, have a semen allergy. This condition appears to be more typical in women in their 20s. However, more research is needed to determine how prevalent it is.
There may also be cases where women have allergic reactions to allergens transmitted through the seminal fluid. This may include certain medications (such as penicillin) and some beverages and foods (such as walnuts).
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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