Ask the Doctors: Nicole

Allergic to Sex

"I married my best friend, my soul mate and the love of my life," says Nicole. "Joe and I waited to have sex before we were married. When we had intercourse that first time, there was no indication to me that I would get sick, but a month into it when I would start to develop symptoms, my stomach would start to get sick, bloating, I couldn't digest any foods, sinus infections, irregular heart palpitations, the doctors removed my tonsils because they were so badly infected."

"I watched her start to break down and disintegrate in front of me," Joe says. "I couldn't really get my head around somebody getting that sick with no obvious cause."

When Nicole felt better, the couple would have intercourse, but she'd immediately start to become sick again. That's when she started to see a pattern.

"The doctors did all these different surgeries thinking it would fix the problem. I lost a lot of hope. I went to my OB/GYN and let him know my belief that every time Joe and I were intimate together I would get sick. He just sat there, and it's like a light bulb went, on and he said, 'That's it, Nicole.' He said, 'You're allergic to sperm.'"

"I felt devastated knowing that I'm the cause of what was making my wife sick for over five years," says Joe.

"I'm going to be married to Joe for the rest of my life, and this is going to be a battle that I can't conquer, so I need help," Nicole concludes.

Dr. Phil asks Nicole, "How did you decide that this was an allergic reaction to Joe's sperm?"

"Because I noticed a pattern every time that we were together sexually without protection that within three weeks it would start off with stomach pain, and then it would spiral into allergies and then keep progressively getting worse," she ex
"Well, it's not typical of a semen or a sperm allergy," says Dr. Materson, "because really, you would have a reaction more right away. It would be faster and be quicker. There are semen and sperm allergies. If you looked under a microscope what you'd see is a lot of freaked out sperm once they came into contact with your fluids."

"How do sperm freak out?" Dr. Phil inquires.

"They'd, you know, shake," Dr. Masterson says with a facetious smile, demonstrating with a shake of her own, "and they'd look a little scared."

"So there is such a thing as an allergic reaction to sperm or semen," says Dr. Phil.

"Right," she says. "Extremely rare."

Dr. Phil says, "And when it does occur, it doesn't follow the path of symptoms, and expression and timeline of what's being seen here, correct?"


"Right, and we have looked over everything again, and again and again, and it just doesn't really follow that pattern," Dr. Masterson says.

Dr. Phil explains that although Nicole's problems are physiological, the root of her problem might be psychological. "Your body has learned that when you have sexual activity, it reacts in a certain way ... That doesn't mean you're crazy. It doesn't mean you have psychological problems. It just means that you may have a learned pattern that could be undone, true?" he asks, turning to Dr. Masterson.

"Exactly, she says. "If you feel that your symptoms are real, then they are real to you."

Dr. Phil shows some video of a previous couple on the show. Darren believed he was allergic to his girlfriend, Anna, so Dr. Phil arranged for the couple to have physical contact without Darren knowing.

"He had no reaction whatsoever," says Dr. Phil. "Now, in the test that you did, you knew you were being inseminated?" he asks Nicole.

"Yes," she answers.

"OK, and so that could still trigger the loop if there's a neurological, physiological, cognitive loop going on, you knew that," says Dr. Phil. "So that's not really a fair test, and I'm just saying we need to look at this differently. So I've got some resources I'm going to make available to you to see what we can figure out."

"And sex is a really important part of a relationship. We're going to get that back working for you. Your sperm won't shake anymore, OK?" says Dr. Masterson.