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Can a Man Get an Infection from Period Blood
October 13, 2022
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SEX DURING PERIOD

Whether you’re into it or not, period sex is safe from a medical perspective. For those with a flow, there is no evidence that having intercourse during your period is harmful.

Typically, the only barrier to sex during a period is personal comfort. Having period sex may be beneficial to the person menstruating. It can reduce painful cramps through orgasms and release feel-good hormones.

ALLERGIC TO SEMEN

A semen allergy, also known as seminal plasma hypersensitivity (SPH), is a rare condition that is caused by a mild or severe allergic reaction to the protein of a man’s semen.

Research has discovered that semen allergies are more common in women than men, affecting up to 40,000 females in the United States. This is likely because most diagnostic case studies have focused on women. More research is needed to understand how the condition impacts sexual partnerships between males.

While extremely rare, a man can be allergic to his own semen. This newly named condition is called post-orgasmic illness syndrome.

This article discusses what you need to know about having safe period sex, being free from unwanted pregnancy and infection risk & allergic to semen.

1) Period sex

Infection from Period Blood

Men and women alike can still catch or transmit a sexually-transmitted infection (STI) during periods of sex. Bleeding does not mitigate the risk. Some viruses, like HIV and hepatitis, live in the blood, so there’s a higher risk of STI transmission.

Contact with menstrual blood carrying HIV or hepatitis can spread the virus. The safest way to prevent STIs during period sex (and in general) is through consistent barrier use like condoms, dental dams, or female (internal) condoms.

Changes in the cervix and pH balance of the vagina during menstruation can make women more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections.

How to Prevent STI Transmission

Everyone who is sexually active is at risk of contracting STIs. While abstaining from all intimate contact is the only way to avoid getting STIs altogether, it’s not very reasonable. Here are medically-backed tactics to help keep sex safe.

  • Frequent STI testing
  • Mutually monogamous sexual relationships
  • External condoms
  • Communication
  • Set and uphold personal boundaries
  • Consider vaccinations
READ MORE: Sex During Period & Symptoms of Sexual Dysfunction in Women

Signs of an STI

As taboo as they still are, STIs are very common. In 2018, 26 million new cases were diagnosed in the United States.

Signs and symptoms of STIs range in severity and length. While some infections are asymptomatic, common symptoms to look out for in the genital region include:

  • Discharge
  • Odor
  • Itching
  • Painful Intercourse
  • Painful urination (dysuria)
  • Lumps, bumps, sores, and ulcers
  • Pain
  • Visible infestation
  • Rashes

When to Get Tested for STIs

Diagnosing and treating STIs early is crucial in preventing more serious medical complications and managing transmission to future sexual partners. Other common genital conditions, like yeast infections, allergic reactions, or bacteria vaginosis, share similar symptoms.

Set up an appointment with your healthcare provider if you experience any unusual symptoms in the genital area or you suspect a sexual encounter was risky or condomless. They will ask about your sexual-health history and perform a physical examination before deciding what tests to order or samples to collect for a lab test.

Make a plan with your healthcare provider about checkups and potential re-testing if you feel you’ve been exposed but render negative test results.

Some viruses won’t show up soon after exposure. For instance, it takes at least two weeks and as many as three months for herpes to show a positive test result. HIV antibodies can be detectable in the blood two to six weeks after exposure but can take up to three months.

Sex and Periods: Other Things to Consider

Period sex can be fun, beneficial, and even more enjoyable to some. Besides understanding safe period sex practices, there are a few other things to consider.

Pregnancy

While the odds of conceiving during your period are pretty low, you can still get pregnant.
The peak ovulation window is about 12 to 14 days before your period. Viable sperm can live inside a woman’s reproductive tract for three to five days after sexual intercourse. Therefore, you can conceive if you have a shorter-than-average menstrual cycle and begin ovulating shortly after your period.

If you are actively trying to avoid pregnancy, it’s best to use a barrier method during period sex.

Potential Benefits

For some women, having sex during their period can bring heightened pleasure. For starters, blood is a natural lubricant. And while it’s not well medically recorded, hormones at play during the days leading up to one’s period could garner a spike in libido.2 Some other benefits of period sex include:

  • Relief from cramps
  • Ease migraines
  • Shorten period
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve sleep

2) Can a Woman Be Allergic to Semen?

Symptoms

Sometimes women experience symptoms with one partner and not another. This is because of the unique mixture of proteins, fluids, and other components of a man’s semen.

A semen allergy can cause local reactions minutes or hours after exposure. Most women will see symptoms of contact dermatitis (a red, itchy rash caused by direct contact with an allergen) inside the vaginal canal, externally on the labia, or around the anus. Symptoms of a semen allergy include:

Rash
Itching
Hives
Angioedema (swelling of the face, arms, or legs)
Redness

Complications That Need Medical Attention

A semen allergy can also cause systemic (body-wide) reactions. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that may occur with a semen allergy. Symptoms can appear within minutes after exposure to semen and can be life-threatening. Here’s what to look out for:

  • A swollen tongue or throat
  • Wheezing and trouble breathing
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • A skin rash
  • Nausea and vomiting

Causes

To understand the cause of a semen allergy, it’s important to note the difference between semen and sperm.

Sperm are reproductive cells containing genetic information used to fertilize an egg. Semen is a composition of seminal fluid from reproductive organs and millions of sperm.
It is widely believed that the major allergen involved in a semen allergy is the proteins produced by the prostate, but other proteins are likely involved. Therefore, it is not a man’s sperm that is the allergen.
Other studies found that medications or food allergens can accumulate in the semen and trigger symptoms in sexual partners with existing sensitization.

Diagnosis

The easiest way to diagnose SPH at home is to see if symptoms are prevented with the use of a condom during intercourse.

Getting an accurate diagnosis can be challenging because semen allergies are rare. Women are often misdiagnosed with:

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Yeast infections
  • Vaginitis (vaginal infection or inflammation)
  • Bacterial infections

If you suspect you have a semen allergy, bring it up with your healthcare provider. Ask for a skin or blood allergy test. To do this, your healthcare provider will expose your skin to the suspected allergen, in this case, your partner’s semen, and closely observe for signs of an allergic reaction.

Treatment

Once you and your partner have a diagnosis, you can use one or more of the following treatments to continue a fulfilling sex life free from allergic reactions.

Condoms

First and foremost, condoms can be used during intercourse to prevent skin-to-semen contact. This is the easiest and least invasive treatment method. If you and your partner are trying to get pregnant, there are other methods available (see below).

Desensitization

Desensitization, also referred to as immunotherapy, is a treatment used to expose the immune system to an allergen in an effort to create a tolerance to it. In most cases, immunotherapy can take three to five years, but the changes can last many years.

Antihistamine

Consider a topical antihistamine cream if you’re experiencing a local allergic reaction. One study recommends Gastrocrom (cromolyn) vaginal cream, which can be prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription allergy medication before intercourse may also help to reduce symptoms in severe cases.

It’s important to make a treatment plan with your partner and medical provider that prioritizes the health and well-being of both partners.

Pregnancy and Semen Allergy

The good news is that SPH has not been shown to directly impact fertility. The sperm (and semen) are still healthy.

Instead, the challenge lies in having unprotected sex without experiencing symptoms. But today, there are options.

In mild cases, immunotherapy or medication can help eliminate the discomfort of an allergic reaction. People with more severe cases can look into intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Your partner’s sperm will be washed free of the allergen (protein) and used for insemination.

In either case, talking to your healthcare provider will help you understand all options’ risks, expenses, and results.

Summary

Period sex has many benefits, such as stress relief, shortened periods, and better sleep. However, period sex does not exclude anyone from getting pregnant or contracting/transmitting STIs. The safest way to prevent STIs during period sex (and in general) is through consistent barrier use like external condoms, dental dams, or internal condoms. See your healthcare provider if you experience unusual genital symptoms or have had condomless sex.

Semen allergy, or seminal plasma hypersensitivity, is an under-researched condition that causes a mild or severe allergic reaction to a specific protein in a man’s semen. Both men and women can be allergic to semen, and experience a range of symptoms from a localized rash to anaphylaxis. Prevention includes the use of condoms, and the use of antihistamines or immunotherapy can be used for treatment.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)

1) Can you get a UTI from period blood?

Scented tampons and pads can irritate the vaginal tissue and reduce its pH balance. But, typically no, personal hygiene, sexual activity, pregnancy, and genetics are more likely to contribute to UTIs than period blood.

2) Does period blood contain bacteria?

Yes. Period blood contains natural bacteria from the vagina and cervix, among other components like blood and uterine endometrial tissue. This is the same healthy and regulating bacteria that lives inside the vaginal canal during different parts of a woman’s cycle.

3) Can a man get sick from period blood?

Period blood, just like all blood, can contain bloodborne pathogens. Consuming period blood (during oral sex) or getting it in an open wound comes with a risk of transferring or contracting known or unknown bloodborne illnesses.

4) Can be allergic to sperm cause yeast infections?

An allergy to semen is rare but can cause internal and external irritation that looks similar to a yeast infection. Yeast infections can also be brought on by many factors including your partner’s natural genital chemistry (naturally occurring bacteria and fluids) or allergies to products, toys, or fabrics.

5) Can a woman be allergic to one man’s sperm but not another?

It is possible for a woman to be allergic to one man’s semen but not another’s. Semen includes mature sperm, fluids from various glands and organs, as well as sugars, proteins, and even some vitamins and minerals. That said, it varies from male to male based on genetics, lifestyle, and overall health.

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