Are You Allergic To Sex?
Nov. 10 -- In most cases, the best way to cope with a typical allergy is to simply steer clear of whatever it is you are allergic to. While this is sometimes inconvenient, it is certainly doable -- that is, if you're allergic to penicillin, shellfish, peanuts, or cats.
But what if you are allergic to sex?
Believe it or not, there are women who literally break out whenever they have intercourse. And as most of them will tell you, abstinence is clearly not an acceptable option.
Unlike sufferers of other types of allergies, women who are allergic to sex don't get an "all over" rash. Typically, only the inner and outer vaginal areas get red and really swollen. Unlike when an infection is the culprit, there is no pain, discharge, itching or odor. And unlike most infections, the reaction occurs within minutes of intercourse rather than days later.
In most cases, the symptoms disappear spontaneously within a few hours. But on occasion, severe reactions with hives and/or breathing problems can occur.
So what is it exactly that causes the allergic reaction?
It's not the penis or the sperm that you're allergic to. It's actually the semen -- or more specifically, the proteins that are normally present in seminal fluid.
Don't replace your boyfriend just yet, though. You should be aware that once someone is allergic to semen, they often react to the proteins in any semen, not just a specific man's semen.
A semen allergy is a difficult predicament. Using a condom is the simplest way to eliminate the problem. If condoms are not an option, an antihistamine or vaginal Cromolym sodium (an allergy medication) will often help, especially if it is a mild case. Before resorting to these methods, however, it is important to first have your gynecologist make sure that no infection is present.
An evaluation by an allergist is the next step to confirm that what you are suffering from is actually an allergic reaction. If it is, the allergist will make a diagnosis and prescribe an appropriate medication. In some cases, allergists can "desensitize" a woman to semen using injections similar to allergy shots.
There Are Options
Women with semen allergies who are trying to conceive face a special set of considerations.
Obviously, if you are trying to conceive, a condom is not the answer. In these situations, it is possible to have a specialized lab separate the sperm from the semen, a process known as "sperm washing." Your gynecologist will then inseminate the sperm directly into your uterus. This isn't a long-term solution to salvage your sex life, of course, but it is at least a quick fix to help you get pregnant.
If the problem occurs only after having sex with a condom, keep in mind that a latex allergy is another potential cause of post-intercourse vaginal redness and swelling. Latex allergies can be acquired even after years of successful condom use. In cases like these, the remedy is to use a lambskin or polyurethane condom such as Avanti or Trojan Supra.
Keep in mind that non-latex condoms break more often than latex condoms, so a spermicide backup is a good idea. The female condom, Reality, which is made from polyurethane, is also an option.
As an aside, if you have a latex allergy, it's important to inform your gynecologist so he or she will know to use non-latex gloves during your examination.
If it's not his semen and not latex condoms, it could be your vaginal lubricant or spermicide that is eliciting the allergic reaction. So before you give up sex altogether, it's probably a good idea to toss that strawberry-flavored lube your boyfriend gave you last Valentine's Day.
Whatever the reason behind an allergy to sex, sufferers can rest assured that there are solutions to the problem -- other than celibacy, that is. The most important thing is to seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. This first step can go a long way in making sex something to be enjoyed once again.
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