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Up To 12 Percent of Women Are Allergic to Semen, Expert Claims

Update Date: Jun 11, 2013 04:49 PM EDT

A fertility expert claims that up to 12 percent of women are allergic to semen. 

Dr. Michael Carroll, a lecturer in Reproductive Science at Manchester Metropolitan University, said that some women are so allergic to semen that exposure could cause anaphylactic shock.

Carroll said that women between the ages of 20 and 30 are believed to be the worst affected, showing symptoms immediately or up to one hour after exposure.

Some symptoms of semen allergy include irritation, itching, painful urination and eczema, and in severe cases exposure to semen can lead to a potentially fatal allergic reaction.

While very few people have been diagnosed with a semen allergy, researchers believe it could be a common problem. Previous studies by Carroll and his team suggest that as many as 12 out of 100 women are allergic to semen.

In a study, published in the journal Human Fertility, Carroll and his team found that symptoms of hypersensitivity to human semen (HHS) are often misdiagnosed due to their similarity with other conditions like dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) and some sexually transmitted diseases.

Carroll and his team at a hospital in the UK identified four women with the condition based on their clinical history and allergy skin prick tests.

Researchers isolated the sperm cells from the seminal fluid and found that an immune reaction was noted with the seminal fluid, but no reaction occurred with the isolated sperm cells. The findings suggest that the allergy is caused by a component in the seminal fluid and not the actual sperm cells. The finding also means that a person who is allergic to one person's semen will be allergic to all semen.

Researchers say women can prevent the allergic reaction by practicing abstinence or having sex with a condom.  They said that these women who want to start a family could use assisted reproductive technology to separate the sperm from the semen.

"In addition to the reaction and physical discomfort, women with HHS experience emotional stress due to the impact it can have on their relationships and the concerns about family planning," Carroll said, according to the Daily Mail.

"There are numerous cases published of successful pregnancies achieved naturally and through assisted reproductive technology in women with this condition. We were able to reassure our patients that HHS does not cause infertility," he added.

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