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Could you be allergic to your mate?

November 4, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The wedding night is usually a special and private end to a day of celebration with family and friends, but for one newlywed couple, their special night turned into a bizarre medical mystery.A severe allergic reaction spoiled what should have been the couple's special night.

Back in 2002, long-time friends Mike and Julie finally worked up the nerve to go on their first date.

"I didn't ask her out until after our first year in college. We were just friends the whole way through high school," said Mike.

"I actually asked you out the first time," said Julie.

Two years into the courtship, they decided to make it official, and Mike proposed.

"I'm not one to get real emotional but as soon as I saw her walking down the aisle, it brought tears to my eyes. It was the happiest day of my life," said Mike.

"After the reception, Mike's parents got us a room at a bed and breakfast to spend our wedding night together," said Julie.

"I was certainly looking forward to the wedding night. Everybody knows what happens," Mike said.

"Before we were always very careful and, you know, used protection, and that time we didn't. So, we figured we were married now, so if we got pregnant, we got pregnant," Julie said.

But on the most anticipated night of a couple's young lives, they made a horrible discovery.

"Pretty much right after, I knew something was not right because I was in a lot of pain. The pain that I was feeling was inside, kind of like, somebody was sticking needles up inside of me and like a burning, like really painful burning," described Julie. "It was really scary because I wasn't sure, was there something wrong with me? Was there something wrong with him?"

And the attacks only got worse. The newlyweds wondered if one of them had a disease. Julie ended up in pain for days. She sometimes even ended up with blisters.

"When you know, this actually happens, afterwards on a scale of 1 to 10, it's pretty much close to 10, and I don't think that that's what a lot of people understand is actually how painful this actually is," Julie described.

After a battery of tests came back completely normal, Julie's doctors had no idea what was causing her pain, until a friend suggested that Julie may be allergic to Mike.

"And after they said that, it kind of crossed my mind. Could that really be possible? So, I kind of went home that night and did a little research on the computer. Could you really be allergic to somebody?" Julie wondered.

According to sexual health experts, the answer is yes. Women can actually be allergic to their mate's semen.

"The body recognizes semen as a foreign protein just as it would recognize a peanut allergen or pollen so you have swelling, you have itching, you have inflammation of the nerve endings," explained Dr. Andrew Goldstein of Centers for Vulvovaginal Disorders.

"All the symptoms pretty much matched mine word for word," Julie realized.

The good news is they can finally have a name for Julie's condition, but it's also a devastating blow, because Julie wants to have a baby.

"In a person with a semen allergy, you can have infertility because the body is attacking the sperm, making them inactive, so they are unable to fertilize the egg," said Andrew.

"This room is going to be the nursery. It's fairly empty right now just because I think it makes it harder on me and Mike to see the room filled and not have a baby in it," Julie said.

However, a revolutionary new treatment offered hope.

"We call it seminal plasma hyper sensitivity, and in the severe situations they can potentially die," explained Dr. Jonathan Berstein of University of Cincinnati.

And it's far more common than most people think.

"We estimate that up to 20,000 to 40,000 women in the United States may suffer with either localized or systemic seminal plasma hyper sensitivity," said Bernstein.

Bernstein has developed a de-sensitization treatment, similar to receiving allergy shots.

"It's no different than allergy injections you give for people with hay fever," explained Bernstein.

The lab creates a serum from Mike's semen that's used almost as a vaccine in order to immunize Julie. In all, she receives 30 shots, each one stronger than the last.

"Too bad, if I knew it was needles, I don't think I'd be here," Julie admitted.

But she says it's worth it if building a tolerance to her husband can help her create a family.

"We've been through so much and there's nothing I want more than for this to work," Mike said.

However, the shots worked for a couple of weeks but started to wear off, and Julie's severe pain returned. So, Julie stopped treatment altogether.

For religious reasons, in-vitro fertilization is not an option for the couple. However, they're already in touch with an adoption agency and are waiting for a match.


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