It should be a sweet story with a happy ending: A pair of 35-year-olds from North Carolina fall in love, and begin planning the rest of their lives together. Clara and Jeff (not their real names) both have steady careers, and, more importantly, are crazy about each other. Things couldn't be more perfect... until they get married and have sex for the first time.
"I had this bizarre reaction," Clara tells ABC News. "I had burning and swelling and redness, which was very unusual. I thought I had contracted an STD."
Wearing a condom didn't help. "The swelling was worst immediately after sex. It would take 24 hours to subside and my skin would be irritated as if you'd put a chemical on it that caused it to burn."
Clara visited her gynecologist, who, after a number of sessions, explained that the new bride had a rare condition called seminal plasma hypersensitivity. Essentially, that means Clara is allergic to the proteins carried in her new husband's sperm.
"It was a real problem, because everything else was great," says husband Jeff. "We were madly in love, but it was a real game-changer."
It pretty much dramatically reduced our libido. We really haven't had much sex at all for the last 10 months. The intimacy level drops dramatically — all of a sudden instead of living with your new wife or husband, you are more like roommates. [Daily Mail]
Clara's condition is incredibly rare, with only a dozen or so cases of seminal plasma hypersensitivity being reported in the last 10 years.
Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. Dr. Bernstein was able to treat Clara with immunotherapy. ABC News reports:
Just two weeks ago, Clara underwent an intravaginal 'graded challenge' using serial dilutions of her husband's seminal fluid, which were injected via a syringe every 15-20 minutes over the course of two to three hours.
Their homework was to have sex within 12 hours and "see how it went," Clara said. Her symptoms "resolved substantially," according to Bernstein, who had her rate the pain.
"It was pretty much fine," she said. "There was a small amount of swelling, but compared to previous times, it was much less." [ABC News]
Although things still aren't exactly normal — the couple admits that, psychologically speaking, being forced to have sex after months of abstinence was "bizarre" — the newlyweds are happy to be back on track.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why the Chinese military is only a paper dragon
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- How ancient DNA is rewriting human history
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Christian conservatives have a terrifying new bogeyman: The Christian leftist
- 10 innovative furniture designs that brilliantly save you space
- Confronting our twisted relationship with food
Subscribe to the Week