A semen allergy, also called seminal plasma hypersensitivity, is a rare allergic reaction to proteins found in semen. A reaction can occur in any area that has contact with semen, although it’s most common around the genitals. It can be diagnosed with a skin test. Treatments include medication and desensitizing.
A semen allergy is an allergic reaction to the proteins in semen. It mostly affects women or people assigned female at birth (AFAB). Semen, or seminal fluid, is the fluid that comes from a penis during ejaculation. Some people believe a semen allergy and a sperm allergy are the same, but they aren’t. Sperm typically isn’t causing the allergic reaction but rather the proteins in the semen.
Semen allergies can affect the skin around your genital area and any other area that comes in contact with semen, like your hands or mouth. In severe cases, you may become short of breath or unconscious. A semen allergy is also called seminal plasma hypersensitivity.
Semen allergies can be localized or systemic:
A semen allergy can develop suddenly or occur the first time you have sex without a condom. It can appear after menopause or childbirth or happen with one partner but not others.
Some men or people assigned male at birth (AMAB) are allergic to their own semen. This is a rare condition called post-orgasmic illness syndrome.
One study estimates that, in the United States, about 40,000 people AFAB have a semen allergy. Healthcare providers believe many people are uncomfortable sharing their symptoms, so that estimate may be higher.
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Symptoms of a semen allergy can resemble vaginal infections or skin allergies. Some of the most common symptoms of a semen allergy are:
In extreme cases, you can go into anaphylactic shock. This requires immediate medical attention and causes symptoms like a swollen throat, a weak pulse and loss of consciousness.
Symptoms typically begin within 30 minutes of exposure to semen and last from several hours to several days.
Getting a rash after sexual intercourse doesn’t necessarily mean you have an allergic reaction to semen. Rashes or other allergic reactions can occur due to infection or other skin irritants. Your healthcare provider can help you rule out other causes of skin reactions.
People have different reactions to semen depending on if their allergy is localized to just the skin that contacts semen or if it affects their whole body. Most people experience localized symptoms on their skin, but others experience life-threatening allergic reactions.
One of the biggest problems a woman or person AFAB may face is the inability to conceive. A semen allergy can strain relationships, especially when a couple wants to get pregnant. However, there are ways for people with a semen allergy to become pregnant.
Your immune system’s reaction to certain proteins found in semen causes semen allergies. Healthcare providers aren’t entirely sure what causes the reaction but believe medication, food sensitivities or hormonal events — such as pregnancy and menopause — could play a role.
There aren’t any specific risk factors for a semen allergy. Anyone who has unprotected sex can have a semen allergy.
No, a semen allergy doesn’t cause a fungal infection. A semen allergy causes rash-like symptoms similar to a fungal infection. The redness, burning or swelling you experience after coming in contact with semen isn’t related to a fungus.
A semen allergy doesn’t cause infertility, but it can make getting pregnant difficult. There are ways healthcare providers can treat a semen allergy to make it easier for you to conceive. Treatment involves washing sperm to remove the protein causing the reaction. Once washed, it’s injected into your uterus via intrauterine insemination (IUI). In vitro fertilization (IVF) is also an option. Talk to your healthcare provider if you believe a semen allergy prevents you from getting pregnant.
Yes, you can be allergic to swallowing semen. Some people report allergic reactions on their skin when it comes in direct contact with semen. For others, the mucus membranes in their mouth and throat react to semen, too.
Your healthcare provider will first rule out vaginal infections and other gynecological issues by performing a pelvic exam.
Semen allergies resemble other conditions like:
Healthcare providers use a skin test to diagnose a semen allergy. They do this by injecting a small amount of your partner’s semen under your skin (intradermal testing) and watching for a reaction to occur.
Another common way to identify a semen allergy is to use a condom during sex. If you don’t experience a reaction, semen may be to blame. On the other hand, if you have sex using a condom and still have an allergic reaction, semen is probably not the cause.
It can also be hard to diagnose semen allergies because you can have allergies to things like:
You and your healthcare provider can work together to determine if semen is the cause of your symptoms or if another allergen is to blame.
The easiest way to avoid a semen allergy is to avoid all contact with semen by using a condom or refraining from sex. This isn’t always possible, especially if you’re trying to conceive. Your healthcare provider treats a semen allergy in a few different ways:
If you have a semen allergy and wish to get pregnant, your healthcare provider can help you. Most people with allergic reactions to semen can get pregnant using assisted reproductive technology (ART) like intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
A semen allergy isn’t entirely curable, but treatment can help reduce your symptoms and make sex more enjoyable.
Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you experience painful symptoms after contact with semen. Localized symptoms include burning, itching or swelling. Systemic symptoms can be serious and life-threatening. Your provider can run tests to help determine if semen is the cause of your allergic response. Other skin irritants or vaginal infections cause similar symptoms, so it’s important to seek help for an accurate diagnosis.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A semen allergy is a rare condition where you experience an allergic reaction after coming in contact with semen. The most common signs are redness, burning, and swelling near your vaginal area. In severe cases, you may have difficulty breathing or get hives. Tell your healthcare provider if you experience these or other symptoms after sex. They can test your skin and determine if your reaction is caused by semen or by something else like lubricants, spermicide, contraceptives or an underlying vaginal infection. Your healthcare provider can treat a semen allergy with medication or desensitizing, or they may recommend using condoms during sex.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/26/2023.
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