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Woman Allergic to Husband's Sperm Can't Have Baby

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Good Morning America: The only thing newlyweds Julie and Mike Boyde wanted was a baby. The couple had already begun planning for a family and started to build a nursery in their Ambridge, Pa., home.

Julie and Mike Boyde

But a painful diagnosis shattered their dream of parenthood. They learned that Julie Boyde was allergic to her husband's semen.

So the Boydes tried a revolutionary new treatment they hoped would allow them to have a baby. And although it proved unsuccessful for them, doctors hope it can help other women who have a similar problem.

Julie and Mike Boyde had been friends for years before he had the nerve to ask her out.

"I didn't ask her out until after our first year in college," Mike Boyde, 27, said. "We were just friends the whole way through high school."

The couple became engaged two years later. They married in 2005 and spent their wedding night at a bed and breakfast.

"Before we were always very careful and, you know, used protection, and that time we didn't," Julie Boyde, 26, said. "So, we figured we were married now, so if we got pregnant, we got pregnant."

But then something went terribly wrong.

"Pretty much right after, I knew something was not right because I was in a lot of pain," she said. "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."

It was a scary moment, she said.

"Was there something wrong with me? Was there something wrong with him," she said.

But the attacks only got worse. Boyde said she was in pain for days, and they wondered if one of them had a disease.

"When ... this actually happens, afterward on a scale of ... 1 to 10, it's pretty much close to 10," she said. "And I don't think that that's what a lot of people understand is ... how painful this actually is."

Test after test came back with no explanation for why she experienced pain after sex. Then a friend of hers suggested that she might be allergic to her husband.

"And after they said that, I'm like, you know, 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," she said.

It's possible to be allergic to another person, according to sexual health experts.

"The body recognizes semen as a foreign protein just as it would recognize a peanut allergen or pollen," Dr. Andrew Goldstein at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said. "So you have swelling, you have itching, you have inflammation of the nerve endings."

Boyde said those were the exact symptoms she was experiencing.

Seminal Plasma Hypersensitivity

The condition is called seminal plasma hypersensitivity, and an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 women in the United States may have it, Goldstein said.

Jonathan Bernstein, an immunologist at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, said, "It can be systemic and present anaphylaxis where individuals have not just localized discomfort. They actually can have hives, soft tissue swelling ... and, in the severe situations ... they can ... potentially die."

But the diagnosis can be devastating for women like Boyde, who are hoping to get pregnant.

"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," Goldstein said.

For religious reasons in vitro fertilization was not an option for the Boydes. But a revolutionary new treatment offered hope for them and other couples living with this condition.

Bernstein, who treats women who are, essentially, allergic to their husbands, developed a desensitization treatment.

The treatment is similar to receiving an allergy shot, Bernstein said. After determining the three proteins in Mike Boyde's semen that triggered his wife's reaction, the lab created a serum from his semen that is used almost like a vaccine to immunize his wife.

She received her serum injections twice a week for the first two weeks and then once a week thereafter. Each shot was stronger than the previous one.

Despite her fear of needles, Julie Boyde said it was worth it if it could help her start a family.

Although the treatment has worked for other couples, it, unfortunately, did not work for the Boydes.

She continued to have a reaction to her husband's semen and, eventually, stopped taking the shots.

The couple said they are going to wait for their adoption agency to match them with a birth mother.

Julie and Mike's story airs on "Strange Sex" tonight on Discovery Health.

Read more stories moms are talking about.

next: Parents in Wrong-Embryo Case Speak Out
10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Marc November 4, 2009, 1:31 PM

Pfft… she is just making it up because she doesn’t like the taste I’m sure. He should drink grapefruit juice. ;-)

Anonymous November 4, 2009, 2:18 PM

It may not her that has the problem. Test is sperm and take out the protien that is causing the reactions

chris November 4, 2009, 3:47 PM

Mark, what are you…12? there was no mention of oral sex.

mercaties November 4, 2009, 6:04 PM

They have the option to use IVF but they wont use it so I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for them. It’s good that they are adopting, maybe that is what is meant for them.

JT November 4, 2009, 10:15 PM

They should have had sex before marriage, that would have solved this.

Anonymous November 5, 2009, 4:31 AM

They did have sex before marriage but they used a condom…don’t you people actually read the stories before you post on them.

Regina November 5, 2009, 6:30 AM

Ok - so they believe in having sex before marriage (with protection) but for religous reasons, won’t do IVF? They need to get off their religous high horse! Way to piok and choose which ‘religous’ rule to follow.

Rich Cantolina November 5, 2009, 11:54 AM

listen people this is my sister you are bashing. obviosly you have no lives to get on here and say stupid stuff like this. i wish i could find everyone one of you! grow up and lady about our religion you can say stuff now but when its judgement day and we all go to a higher place ill be laughing from up above at your sorry life! you people do not know how hard this is to go through something like this cause i know none of you have gone through this so just shutup. and marc i hope to god one day i can find out who you are for the stupid comment that you left just grow up!

Andrea's Sweet Life November 6, 2009, 6:33 PM

Should either of the people involved in this issue read this (or her brother, who stopped by earlier) I hope you will look into a treatment with a machine called the BAX 3000 made by BioAllergenix. It uses lasers to deliver frequencies into the body (completely painless, with FDA clearance) to re-train the nervous system to stop attacking harmless substances. My daughter (age 2) had life threatening food allergies, and while she hasn’t yet finished her treatments (she requires 30 total because of the number of things she’s allergic to), our lives changed tremendously after the first few treatments. It is inexpensive, and by going to the BioAllergenix website, you can easily find a pactitioner in your area. Please understand, I am not affiliated with the company in any way and this is NOT spam - I just hope other people can benefit from this life-changing treatment the way my family has.

Akoenig November 9, 2009, 10:46 AM

Dr. Andrew Goldstein is not with the University of Cincinnati. This error has been perpetuated as the story went global. The treating allergist/physician is at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center but his name is Jonathan Goldstein, MD. Dr. Andrew Berstein practicies in Washington, D.C.

If someone has a serious interest in the treatment they can contact Dr. Bernstein…via

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