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Semen Allergies Are Real & Can Make It Harder to Conceive

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

Up to 12 percent of women are allergic to semen, but there are things that help

Let’s talk about human seminal plasma hypersensitivity – more commonly known as semen allergy. Basically, it’s an allergic reaction to proteins found in semen.

This was first documented in the 1950s, and we’re still not entirely sure how common it is. In one study with 1,073 women participants, 12 percent had probable semen allergies.

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But we do know that the allergic reactions can be systemic (meaning that they affect the whole body and could involve difficult breathing) or local — like a skin rash in one particular area. While both men and women can have semen allergies, it’s more common for women to have a more serious, full-body reaction. Symptoms could last for a few hours or as long as several days.

It’s also not an all-semen-or-no-semen situation. You can be allergic to one partner’s semen, but not another’s. You could also suddenly develop an allergy with a longtime partner. A person’s allergies can change over time, and this is no exception.

More: Is It True Your Allergies Change Every 7 Years?

Semen allergies can be tricky to diagnose, as there are some overlapping symptoms with vaginitis, yeast infections and some sexually transmitted infections, like herpes.

The most common way of diagnosing a semen allergy is to see if the symptoms go away if you use a condom. There’s also the traditional prick test where a doctor exposes your skin to small amounts of the allergen.

But semen allergies aren’t just annoying — they could make it harder for women to conceive since their allergy means that they may not be able to have sex without a condom. But the good news is that aside from difficulty having unprotected sex, there is no known connection between having a semen allergy and infertility.

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So what can you do if you’re having symptoms?

Doctors’ first recommendation is typically to use condoms when having sex. The other possible treatment for women is desensitization therapy, either by having sex two or three times a week until your body stops having allergic reactions or through intravaginal injections of increasingly stronger dilutions of their partner’s semen. And good news: Both methods are proven to be fairly successful.

Up to 12 percent of women are allergic to semen, but there are things that help
Image: Liz Smith/SheKnows
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