June 30, 2008

Q&A: Semen Allergy: Could I Be Allergic to My Boyfriend’s Semen?

Dr. Debby Herbenick answers a question from a female reader who is having a reaction to her partner's semen. Could it be a semen allergy?

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Question: When my boyfriend and I have sex and he ejaculates inside me, I get a really bad burning feeling in my vagina. It gets red, too. It just feels very irritated; this only started recently. Assuming we’re STI-free (we plan on getting tested next week), could I be allergic to his semen?

Yes, it is possible to be allergic or hypersensitive to semen. Sometimes this is referred to “human seminal plasma allergy” or as a hypersensitivity. It is also possible there are other things going on, so checking in with your gynecologist or other health care provider will be important.

Many Possible Factors

Sometimes women react to the semen of a specific man even if they never reacted negatively to the semen of previous partners; other times women report a history of reacting to more than one man’s ejaculate.

There are women who report having skin or vaginal reactions to semen since the very first time they were exposed to ejaculate, whether through unprotected intercourse or their partner ejaculating on their stomach or back.

In other cases, a woman may begin reacting to a partner’s semen after years or decades without problems. Sometimes this happens after a hormonal change such as beginning a new contraceptive method, having a hysterectomy, pregnancy, giving birth or menopause.

In other situations, the reaction has been linked to something that the woman’s partner has ingested, like a food or medicine that the woman is allergic or sensitive to, such as walnuts or penicillin.

Try Using A Condom

If you think that you’re sensitive to his ejaculate, you might try using condoms until you’re able to get in to see your health care provider. That way, your boyfriend’s ejaculate won’t come into contact with your vagina.

If you’re still irritated even with the use of condoms, then perhaps something else is going on. For example, you might be reacting to the type of lubricant you’re using (if any), or you might have a vulvovaginal condition that’s causing discomfort.

You may find “The V Book: A Doctor’s Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health” by Dr. Elizabeth Stewart and Paula Spencer to be of interest.

Though the book doesn’t provide much information on allergic or hypersensitive reactions to ejaculate, it might provide insight into other issues related to vulvovaginal health or perhaps other clues to your discomfort and irritation.

Talk To A Healthcare Provider

Telling your health care provider everything you can think of – such as any lubricants you’ve used, types of sexual behaviors, other food or medication allergies, feminine hygiene products you’ve used — might be useful in making a diagnosis or suggesting treatment.

Plus, it’s always a good idea to get tested for STIs if you’ve been sexually active, so good for you for looking into testing for yourself and for your partner.

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