Can You Get Pregnant If You’re Allergic to Sperm?

A sperm allergy can cause fertility problems in some couples. Fortunately, treatments are available. Learn what a sperm allergy could mean for your relationship and how treatment could improve your odds of conception.

 

Infertility immediately springs to mind when hearing about sperm allergies. Known as hypersensitivity to human semen (HHS) or seminal plasma hypersensitivity, this condition affects as many as 12 percent of women, according to Medical Daily.

When diagnosed with the uncommon allergy, many couples fear that they will be unable to conceive. Know that while severe allergies can make it more difficult to get pregnant, being allergic to sperm is not a direct cause of infertility.

“In much the same way that you can be allergic to strawberries or roses, you can also be allergic to your partner’s sperm,” says Niels H. Lauersen, author of Getting Pregnant: What Couples Need to Know Right Now.

“As a result, your body begins making sperm antibodies the moment he ejaculates into your vagina. Aimed at destroying what your body perceives as a deadly invader, the antibodies create an environment so hostile it becomes difficult or almost impossible for sperm to survive.”

“And, in most cases, the sperm does die, and no pregnancy occurs,” says Lauersen. “However, if your antibody reaction is mild to moderate, sperm may only be made defective. Fertilization is still possible, but the conception is usually too weak or too frail to survive, thus setting the miscarriage process in motion.”

Signs of a Sperm Allergy

Maybe you suspect that you have a sperm allergy but have not received a solid diagnosis.

It can be difficult to know if the symptoms you are experiencing are a true allergy or complications from another condition such as a yeast infection. As both can occur from sex, it’s important to undergo professional testing from your doctor.

Common symptoms of a sperm allergy include:

  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Burning

These symptoms generally start around 10 to 30 minutes following contact with the semen. Note that these symptoms are not just restricted to your vaginal area.

You may also experience these symptoms on any area of your skin, such as around the mouth.  In some instances, a severe reaction can cause whole body complications, such as swelling, hives, difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that typically occurs within seconds or minutes of exposure.

What the Experts Say

When trying to conceive, getting the news that you have a sperm allergy can be hard to hear. However, don’t lose hope. Understand that while a sperm allergy can make it more difficult to conceive, it does not always thwart your chances of getting pregnant.

Here’s what some experts have to say about it.

“Some women are hypersensitive or allergic to semen. Sometimes a woman reacts only to the semen of one particular man. Other times, she may react to semen from every man with whom she’s had unprotected sex. If you have allergies, ask your partner if he’s ingested any of the things you’re allergic to, such as nuts, penicillin, or eggs. If so, he may be able to cut a food that you’re allergic to out of his diet for your benefit.”

Sex Made Easy, Debby Herbenick

 

“It’s a cruel irony that your body should attack your intimate partner (or his semen, anyway) as an enemy. A man’s ejaculate contains many antigens, both in the fluid ejaculated (called the seminal plasma) and on the sperm, that can stimulate an allergic response. These symptoms (mainly itching and blisters) may begin during intercourse or immediately afterward, within fifteen minutes.”

The V Book, Elizabeth G. Stewart, M.D.

 

“Treatment to desensitize your allergic reaction to your partner’s semen may allow you to conceive naturally. However, if your sensitivity to semen is severe, your doctor may recommend intrauterine insemination – using sperm washed free of semen proteins to prevent a reaction – or in vitro fertilization to become pregnant.”

Sperm Allergy: A Cause of Infertility?, Shannon K. Laughlin-Tommaso, M.D.

 

“Sperm allergy is frustrating for many couples and can be a strain on relationships. It can also complicate matters for couples who wish to conceive, since this usually can’t happen through unprotected intercourse. However, there are ways for a woman to become pregnant even with sperm allergy. The allergy does not affect her fertility and pregnancy can be achieved through artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization, after sperm is washed.”

What is a Sperm Allergy, International Society for Sexual Medicine

 

“Sperm allergy is not a direct cause of infertility. However, allergies to semen can make it difficult to conceive especially due to the physical and psychological impact. It may make intimacy very difficult for obvious reasons. No one wants to deal with a breakout when trying to conceive. Women with severe reactions should consider intrauterine fertilization.”

Sperm Allergy, Lindsay Sullivan

 

Possible Treatment Options

If you have been diagnosed with a sperm allergy, your doctor may have discussed treatment options. For couples who are not trying to conceive, condoms are typically effective in preventing symptoms as you are not coming into contact with the sperm.

However, if you are trying to conceive, other treatment methods must be considered. Some treatment options for women with allergies to sperm include:

  • Desensitization Therapy: While not effective for all women, desensitization therapy may work for women with mild allergies. The treatment, which typically consists of allergy shots containing small doses of the male partner’s semen, may help reduce symptoms over time. Another type of desensitization therapy involves having frequent sex, according to David J. Resnick, M.D., director of the allergy division of New York Presbyterian Hospital. However, always undergo treatment under a doctor’s care as sex can be deadly for some women with severe semen allergies.
  • Intrauterine Insemination: Intrauterine insemination, or IUI, if a type of fertility treatment that involves transporting sperm to a woman’s uterus for fertilization. For women with sperm allergies, it can be difficult for the sperm to reach the fallopian tubes before being destroyed by the body. With IUI, the goal is to boost the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes for a greater chance of conception. During IUI, the semen is washed by the lab to separate the semen from the seminal fluid. The seminal fluid is typically responsible for the allergic reaction. Once it’s washed away, the risk of an allergic reaction is minimal.
  • In Vitro Fertilization: While more invasive than IUI, in vitro fertilization (IVF) can also increase a women’s chance of conception when dealing with a sperm allergy. In vitro fertilization consists of combining an egg and sperm outside of the body. Once an embryo forms, it is placed in the uterus. As the sperm and egg are combined outside of the body, the risks of complications from a sperm allergy are eliminated. The success rate for women under 35 years of age who undergo IVF is between 41 and 43 percent, according to the American Pregnancy Association. The success rate of IVF starts to dwindle as women grow older.

It’s true – some women are allergic to sperm. However, this does not make them infertile. While some women with this allergy may need help from their doctor to conceive, know that getting pregnant is possible with a sperm allergy.

 

Brandy Dishaw

Brandy is a content specialist and proud mother of two children. She enjoys writing engaging content on parenting, children’s health, and educational topics, and has been published on websites like Modern Mom, Yahoo! Shine, and Livestrong.com. With more than a decade of experience as a writer and mom, she combines research and personal experience to provide her audience with insight to the world of parenting.

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