By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Semen performs its most important function reproduction in animals including humans. In addition, they have other beneficial and harmful effects on human health as well.
There have been studies that have shown that semen has an antidepressant effect, anti-cancer effects where the semen is found to prevent and fight breast cancer and also prevention of pregnancy related high blood pressure condition called preeclampsia.
The exact beneficial role of semen in these diseases is not well known. However, the harmful effects of semen in transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are well known.
Semen and transmission of disease
Some people think there are only two STIs syphilis and gonorrhoea. In reality, however, there are many other diseases that can be spread through sexual contact. These include:
hepatitis B and C
HIV (the virus that causes AIDS)
These diseases need awareness and need to be prevented as without therapy these diseases may lead to infertility, cancer, heart disease, AIDS and even death.
Hepatitis B and C
Hepatitis B and C affect the liver and may be carried blood, saliva, semen and other body fluids of an infected person. They spread via sexual contact and may lead to liver cancer.
AIDS is the end result of infection with the virus HIV. HIV virus also is carried in blood, saliva, semen and other body fluids of an infected person. HIV attacks the body’s defence system or immunity and makes common infections life threatening. AIDS has no cure and is usually fatal.
Gonorrhea is caused by bacteria spread from one infected person to another during sex. It can occur in both men and women affecting the penis, vagina the rectum and throat. This leads to burning during urination and pus discharge.
Untreated gonorrhea can cause sterility in both women and men. In women, it can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) that may eventually lead to infertility and miscarriage.
Syphilis is caused by an organism that enters the body through the skin, the mouth, or the anus during sex. It leads to a sore from where the organism enters the blood.
Herpes is a viral disease and it forms blisterlike sores on the genitals.
Chlamydia produces an infection that is very similar to gonorrhea. Untreated chlamydia can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) with pain, fever, miscarriage and infertility in women.
Nongonococcal Urethritis (NGU) is also an infection that may cause burning upon urination and discharge of pus from the penis. Bacteria involved are Ureaplasma and mycoplasma.
Genital warts are caused by a virus, Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV in most cases resolves by itself but may lead to cervix cancer in some women.
Vaginitis is an inflammation of a woman’s vagina passed during sex. Three of the most common types of vaginitis are:
Blood in the semen
Blood in semen is not uncommon and can appear as either a brownish or red colour in the semen. It is usually painless in most men. It may even be invisible to the naked eye and can be detected only with a microscope. Blood in semen may be caused by inflammation, infection, blockage, or injury anywhere along the male reproductive system.
Blood in semen is called haematospermia and can affect men of any age after puberty. It commonly affects men between 30 and 40 years of age and in men over 50 years of age with benign prostate enlargement. The majority of cases go away in time without treatment. Up to 90 per cent of men who have had blood in their semen experience repeated episodes.
Semen as an antidepressant
There are studies that have shown that semen could act as an antidepressant in women. The study included sexually active college females and found that not only were females who were having sex without condoms less depressed, but depressive symptoms and suicide attempts among females who used condoms were higher.
Condom use meant less exposure to semen. Measures of depression were high in women did not use condoms if the time between last sexual intercourse increased. Researchers speculate that the vagina absorbs a number of components of semen that can be detected in the bloodstream and that reduces symptoms of depression.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
Last Updated: Sep 19, 2013