- Have you had trouble conceiving in the last couple of years? Tests may reveal that both you and your better half are fine. “Just go back home and keep on trying,” the doctor might advise.
- You have had 99 problems and infertility tops the list. The others, a scratchy vagina after intercourse, developments in the vaginal wall after a roll in the sack, strange discharge, or a combination of the above.
You’ve grown weary and your patience is stretched to the limit. You give up. What if you were to discover that you could conceive if a catheter – and not a man’s phallus – is used instead to deliver sperms to your uterus?
You’ve got to give credit to science. That is however a story for another day. Today, you get to know about sperm allergy. If medical literature holds some water, this is no longer a myth. The diagnoses, at least by Kenyan standards, would involve what Dr Ong’ech of Kenyatta National Hospital calls post-coital test.
“Couples have sex and then we collect the fluids from inside the woman to test if she is allergic to the semen,” he says. This is how the test is done. You and your spouse head to the hospital ready to hit the sack. The doctor should be waiting for you by the time you arrive. The instruction is that you get ready for a real bedroom session. You will be afforded your privacy of course.
Mating comes to an end and the doctors come to collect samples from inside the woman for analysis. The medics are only interested in finding out if the madam is allergic to sperms. They will be looking for dead sperms to prove the hypothesis. Your ‘infertility’ turns out to be not quite real, because it is your body that produces antibodies which kills the sperms.
The good news from this romanticised diagnosis is that all the doctor needs to do is get your man’s sperms and bypass the ‘toxic’ vaginal area and deposit them inside the uterus from where they can swim to fertilise the eggs. There is a high chance that sperm allergy may be misdiagnosed for a sexually transmitted disease or infertility.
The condition, according to medics, has great semblance to endometriosis, a condition where endometrial cells lining the womb migrate to the ovaries, the lining of the pelvis behind the uterus and the top of the vagina. Trends outside Kenya – in the UK – indicate that up to half of infertile women have endometriosis. In a new study, Dr Jonathan McGuane, a researcher at the University of Adelaide, found that Transforming Growth Factor-1 (TGF-1), a protein synonymous with semen, causes the shedding of endometrial cells implanted in mice.
This could describe the process of endometriosis and semen allergy. According to Dr Ong’ech, “Sperm allergy is quite rare in Kenya. I witnessed it in my early practice. I am yet to come across the same again.” Nevertheless, a yet-to-be-published research by Dr Michael Carroll of Manchester Metropolitan University shows that up to 12 per cent of women may have the condition. Those with the allergy react adversely to all men’s semen. Naturally, seminal fluid creates changes inside the womb to help conception. A research published in Immunology in 2012 found that TGF-1 changes the lining of the womb so it becomes more fertile and more immune to infection. The exact sequence of events that causes sperm allergy in women however is still unknown.