Now this is something I hadn't heard of before. And no, it's not a cooked, scientific mumbo-jumbo variation of "I-have-a-headache." Boy meets Girl, they fall in love, make the Beast With Two Backs and instead of bliss and fireworks, this happens:
"I had this bizarre reaction," said Clara, who for privacy reasons did not want to use her real name. "I had burning and swelling and redness, which was very unusual. I thought I had contracted an STD [sexually transmitted disease]."
Horrified, she made an appointment with the gynecologist for testing and was nervous about having a "tricky conversation" with Jeff.
After several doctors' visits and hours of research online, the North Carolina couple finally got some answers, but it derailed their sex life and shook their marriage.
What she had was something called seminal plasma hypersensitivity, an allergic reaction to proteins in her husband's semen.
They tried condoms, but it didn't help, and treatment was expensive.so they just avoided sex.
"In a normal romantic relationship, you want to feel attractive to your partner and want to do things that make you feel sexy," Clara said. "I feel like we actually started to define ourselves -- minimizing things to avoid sex. Funny, I started thinking I wouldn't wear sexy underwear. ... What seemed like medical problems had bigger effects."
"It pretty much dramatically reduced our libido," Jeff said. "We really haven't had much sex at all for the last 10 months."
They didn't share their concerns with anyone.
"When your mom calls up and asks how's married life? ... It's something we've been facing privately," Clara said.
Jeff said they started feeling "isolated, like total weirdoes," wondering why this would happen to them. "The intimacy level drops dramatically -- all of a sudden instead of living with your new wife or husband, you are more like roommates."
Eventually they couldn't stand it any more, found a doctor who would take their insurance, and Clara was treated. This involved diluted injections of Jeff's love juice...and not in the fun way, but via syringe every 15-20 minutes over the course of two to three hours. Specialists in allergies refer to this as 'desensitizing', and happily it did the trick.
The doctor involved, Dr. Jonathan Bernstein is also a professor at University of Cincinnati, who specializes in allergies and immunology. According to him, this condition is extremely rare, but not unknown and probably affects an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 women in the U.S.