Can a woman be allergic to semen?
A semen allergy, also known as seminal plasma hypersensitivity (SPH), is a rare condition caused by a mild or severe allergic reaction to the protein in a man’s semen.
Research has found that semen allergies are more common in women than in men, affecting up to 40,000 women in the United States. This is likely due to the fact that most diagnostic case studies have focused on women. More research is needed to understand how the condition affects sexual partnerships between men.
Although extremely rare, a man can be allergic to his own semen. This newly named condition is called post-orgasmic illness syndrome.
Read on to better understand the causes, symptoms, and solutions of a semen allergy.
Sometimes women experience symptoms with one partner and not with another. This is due to the unique mixture of proteins, fluids and other components of a man’s semen.
A semen allergy can cause local reactions minutes or hours after exposure. Most women will see symptoms of contact dermatitis (a red, itchy rash caused by direct contact with an allergen) inside the vaginal canal, outside on the labia, or around the anus. Symptoms of a semen allergy include:
- Angioedema (swelling of the face, arms or legs)
Complications requiring medical attention
A semen allergy can also cause systemic (body-wide) reactions. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can occur with a semen allergy. Symptoms can appear minutes after exposure to semen and can be life threatening. Here’s what to look for:
- A swollen tongue or throat
- Wheezing and difficulty breathing
- Dizziness or fainting
- Rapid and weak pulse
- A skin rash
- Nausea and vomiting
To understand the cause of a semen allergy, it is important to note the difference between semen and semen.
Sperm are reproductive cells containing genetic information used to fertilize an egg. Semen is a composition of seminal fluid from the reproductive organs and millions of sperm cells.
It is widely accepted that the main allergens involved in a semen allergy are proteins produced by the prostate, but other proteins are likely involved. Therefore, it is not a man’s sperm that is the allergen.
Other studies have shown that drugs or food allergens can accumulate in semen and trigger symptoms in sexual partners who are already sensitized.
The easiest way to diagnose HSP at home is to see if symptoms are prevented by using a condom during sex.
Getting an accurate diagnosis can be difficult because semen allergies are rare. Women are often misdiagnosed with:
If you think you have a semen allergy, talk to your healthcare provider. Ask for a skin or blood allergy test. To do this, your healthcare provider will expose your skin to the suspected allergen, in this case, your partner’s semen, and closely observe signs of an allergic reaction.
Once you and your partner are diagnosed, you can use one or more of the following treatments to continue a great sex life without allergic reactions.
First and foremost, condoms can be used during sex to prevent skin-sperm contact. This is the simplest and least invasive method of treatment. If you and your partner are trying to get pregnant, there are other methods available (see below).
Desensitization, also called immunotherapy, is a treatment used to expose the immune system to an allergen in an attempt to build tolerance to it. In most cases, immunotherapy can take three to five years, but the changes can last for many years.
Consider topical antihistamine cream if you have a local allergic reaction. One study recommends Gastrocrom (cromolyn) vaginal cream, which can be prescribed by your healthcare professional.
Over-the-counter or prescription allergy medications before sex can also help reduce symptoms in severe cases.
It is important to work out a treatment plan with your partner and health care provider that prioritizes the health and well-being of both partners.
Pregnancy and sperm allergy
The good news is that SPH has not been shown to directly impact fertility. Sperm (and semen) are always healthy.
Instead, the challenge is to have unprotected sex without experiencing symptoms. But today, there are options.
In mild cases, immunotherapy or medications can help eliminate the discomfort of an allergic reaction. People with more severe cases may consider intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Your partner’s sperm will be stripped of the allergen (protein) and used for insemination.
Either way, talking to your health care provider will help you understand the risks, costs, and outcomes of all options.
Semen allergy, or seminal plasma hypersensitivity, is an understudied condition that causes a mild or severe allergic reaction to a specific protein in a man’s semen. Both men and women can be allergic to semen and experience a range of symptoms from a localized rash to anaphylaxis. Prevention includes the use of condoms, and the use of antihistamines or immunotherapy can be used for treatment.
A word from Verywell
If you have a semen allergy, remember that your partner’s semen is not dirty or “bad” and you are not responsible for how your body reacts to it. Any condition stemming from sexual intimacy is a chance to assess how you and your partner handle challenges together. A sperm allergy is not necessarily a sign that you and your partner don’t get on well. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to discover other forms of intimacy that can protect you and bring you closer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can sperm allergy cause fungal infections?
A semen allergy is rare but can cause internal and external irritation that resembles a yeast infection. Yeast infections can also be caused by many things, including your partner’s natural genital chemistry (bacteria and natural fluids) or allergies to products, toys, or fabrics.
Can a woman be allergic to one man’s semen but not another?
It is possible for a woman to be allergic to one man’s semen but not to another’s. Semen includes mature sperm, fluids from various glands and organs, and sugars, proteins, and even vitamins and minerals. That said, it varies from man to man depending on his genetics, lifestyle, and overall health.