Anti-Sperm Antibodies

As of yet, the effect that anti-sperm antibodies have on female fertility is little understood. In fact, both men and women can be affected by the presence of anti-sperm antibodies in their system. In the case of women, on whom we are focusing here, these antibodies are present in the vaginal fluids. They attack, damage and kill sperm cells that enter the vagina via a man's semen when a couple has unprotected sexual intercourse. Basically, the woman's immune system is creating an allergic reaction to the sperm. Some women experience allergy symptoms due to this reaction, but some do not. It should be emphasized that this is an extremely rare cause of infertility.

Immunologic Infertility

When a woman's immune system is the root cause of her inability to conceive, her condition is described as immunologic infertility. Because this particular fertility problem is so very rare, tests for anti-sperm antibodies are likely to be one of the last types of fertility tests recommended by a fertility doctor.

Anti-Sperm Antibody Testing

These tests are usually carried out only if checks for more common infertility causes have failed to produce conclusive results. For women, an anti-sperm antibody test takes the form of a routine blood test, in which blood is taken from the arm. The sample then goes off to a laboratory where it is tested for the presence of the antibodies. If antibodies are present, the number of antibodies is also counted. The higher the level of antibodies present, the more damage they can do to sperm cells and the lower a woman's chances are of becoming pregnant.

Semen Allergy

Not all women who have allergic reactions to sperm also have anti-sperm antibodies in their vaginal fluids. But even these women may have trouble getting pregnant, because a semen allergy can cause so much irritation that unprotected sex (without a condom) becomes impossible.


Symptoms of semen allergy may appear just a few minutes after unprotected sex, but in some cases they don't begin until several hours later. A mild reaction includes a rash, itching and a burning sensation in the vagina and/or around the genital area. A severe reaction may progress to the level anaphylactic shock, including swelling of the throat and eyes, and breathing difficulties.

Semen Allergy Test

The semen allergy test may be carried out by means of a blood test, as described above, or by a skin test. The skin test involves putting a droplet of semen onto a woman's skin. Then a small scratch or prick is made in the skin. After 15 minutes or so, the specialist carrying out the test checks for signs of an allergic reaction.

The Cure?

Don't assume that because you are allergic to semen that you're simply not destined to become pregnant. Thanks to modern fertilization methods, such as IUI and IVF, many women who have anti-sperm antibodies or who react badly to semen exposure do become mothers. In the case of IUI, for example, sperm cells are inserted directly into the uterus, bypassing the vagina and thereby causing no skin irritation. If an IUI patient has anti-sperm antibodies in her system, the sperm cells can be washed before IUI takes place, thereby removing the proteins which trigger the antibodies' reaction.

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I was recently diagnosed with a semen allergy after seeing a ton of specialists. I had tried 11 times until I had the severe allergic reaction that you speak of and proceeded to go into a seizure. I was told that being on Benadryl and even prednisone would help with my situation the next time I go in for the IUI and I also carry an epi-pen as well. Has anyone had a similar experience? My insurance doesn't cover IVF so that's out of the question for me.