Is Sperm Good For You? 14 Claims About Semen's Health Benefits, Examined

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We at Bustle love giving you tips for how to tap into your sexual potential and troubleshoot when things aren’t going your way in the bedroom. But what about finding solutions to those stressful sexual health situations that inevitably crop up when you’re getting down? Emma Kaywin, a Brooklyn-based sexual health writer and activist, is here to calm your nerves and answer your questions. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your questions to tips@bustle.com. This week’s topic: whether sperm is actually good for you.

Q: I’ve been seeing this guy for around three months now and we just started talking about stopping using condoms. We are monogamous and both just got tested so I’m not worried about STDs, and if we did this I would get an IUD so I don’t get pregnant. In our discussion about this, he offhand mentioned to me something about the “health benefits” of  sperm and I was like WHAT? Sounds like pseudoscience trying to get girls not to use protection. But he swears he’s seen some articles in reputable journals. So, are there any real health benefits to sperm?

A: Every so often, an article pops up telling everyone to drop whatever they’re holding and start swallowing semen immediately due to some supposed health benefit. While it’s true that many of the chemicals, proteins, etc. in semen have important roles in our bodies, what’s less true is that just because a healthy thing is found in sperm, that translates to making your body healthy if sperm happens to get into your vagina, mouth, or butt.

So, how much of this research is reputable or meaningful? It’s time to go through the many, many claims of how semen is saving lives and see what research is actually backing them all up. You're welcome.

Claim # 1: Semen is Nutritious

The first claim is about the nutritional value of semen itself. And it’s true, there are a lot of things making up seminal fluid.

How Strong Is This Research?

The nutritional facts are from a very good meta-study of what’s actually in semen, as well as this in-depth book on the subject. However, it’s important to note that these are just averages — the specific amount of each chemical varies widely based on whose semen you’re getting in your body, what their diet is like, how old they are, etc. When you look at the percentage daily value above, it becomes pretty quickly clear that in order to get a reasonable amount of any of these nutritious elements, you would have to swallow lots of spunk.

So … Is It True?

It is definitely true that all of these nutritious elements can be found in sperm, although none in high enough concentration to make a serious difference on its own. A multivitamin will to take you way further.

Claim #2: Semen Is A Natural Antidepressant

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Many articles talk about the supposed ability of semen to make you less depressed. They cite lots of anti-depressive chemicals naturally found in seminal fluid, such as endorphins, oxytocin, progesterone, prolactin, serotonin, and Nerve Growth Factor.

The main claim, though, points back to a single study that surveyed 293 sexually active women and discovered that those who didn’t use condoms during sex with men were less depressed than those that did — and that the number of depressive symptoms and attempts of suicide were actually inversely correlated to the number of times they used condoms. So basically, from that, the researchers drew the conclusion that it’s possible that semen (or rather, some component of it) might have some protective effect against depression, if it’s absorbed through the vagina. Researchers haven’t found the same anti-depressive effects for folks without vaginas.

How Strong Is This Research?

Well first off, 293 isn’t that many people, given human diversity. And while the researchers did use a solid way to test the women’s levels of depression, they didn’t engage with the sexual partners of their study subjects. As in, they didn’t test their semen to see what the composition of their seminal fluid was like. Remember how the levels of what’s in semen are actually pretty variable? Yeah, that probably matters.

The researchers themselves said that these findings were preliminary and that much more research needs to be done to conclude that semen does, in fact, have anti-depressive qualities. They also listed a lot of challenges in their research findings, which you can read about in the full study here, if you are a nerd like me.

So … Is It True?

We definitely need more research on this subject to be sure that this correlation of semen and lowered depression is real — for all vagina-owners, for all sexual partners, etc. This one study does make an argument that it could be true, but there are so many other potential factors that other reviewers have claimed the study and correlation don't hold water.

Claim #3: Semen Reduces Anxiety

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Another major claim about semen is that it can lower your anxiety. This argument is based on the fact that seminal fluid includes some hormones known to reduce anxiety — specifically, oxytocin, serotonin, and progesterone. There is also a claim that semen’s high antioxidant levels lower anxiety by helping with oxidative stress, which is when your body has too many free radicals (which you may remember from Chemistry class are atoms that have an odd number of electrons) for your antioxidants to detoxify.

How Strong Is This Research?

While it is true that oxytocin and progesterone diminish anxiety, serotonin is actually produced by anxious people (as in they have too much). However, just because semen has the anxiety-reducing chemicals oxytocin and progesterone, does that mean that getting them into your body in this way actually has the impact of reducing anxiety? I couldn’t find any peer-reviewed research looking into this in a rigorous way.

As for whether the antioxidants present in semen combat oxidative stress, let’s back up a bit. The research is conclusive that your body needs a balance between free radicals and antioxidants in order to function. This study looked into a bunch of research about the connection between oxidative stress and anxiety, and found conflicting evidence. Basically, their conclusion was that while the research shows a relationship between the two, it’s not clear that oxidative stress causes anxiety. They did conclude that it’s possible that antioxidants could help with anxiety. But more research needs to be done to figure out if the amount of antioxidants in semen would do the trick.

So … Is It True?

Jury’s still out on this one. If you’re a research nerd, make this your next project!

Claim #4: Semen Is An Anti-Inflammatory

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Some claim that semen has anti-inflammatory qualities.

How Strong Is This Research?

It is true that some of the elements comprising semen have anti-inflammatory properties. However, I was unable to find any research that conclusively indicated that this translates to lowering inflammation in your body after sex.

So … Is It True?

It is true that semen itself contains anti-inflammatories, but we don’t know if that means that if you have unprotected sex you can diminish your headache or make that swelling go down.

Claim #5: Having Semen In Your Body Can Improve Your Sleep

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Seminal fluid includes melatonin, which is the hormone that helps you wind down and sleep. This leads some to claim that having semen in your body puts melatonin in your bloodstream, helping you get to sleep.

How Strong Is This Research?

There’s a fair amount of research into how melatonin affects sperm motility (results: not really significant with the melatonin naturally in sperm, but if you take extra it can decrease sperm quality over time) but nothing I could find on how the melatonin in semen affects the bodies of sex partners.

So … Is It True?

Someone should do the actual research to find out for sure.

Claim #6: Semen Can Trigger Labor

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Prostaglandins are a hormone-like substance that drives cervical ripening, which is when your cervix softens to let the baby out. For this reason, prostaglandins are sometimes administered by doctors to help along the labor process. So when we learned that these chemicals can be found in semen, the claim quickly caught on that having unprotected sex at the end of pregnancy would induce labor.

How Strong Is The Research?

A meta-study reviewed all the studies on the subject and didn’t find any conclusive results one way or the other.

So … Is It True?

More research needs to be done before we can know for sure, but it probably couldn't hurt.

Claim #7: Semen Can Help Your Period Come Faster

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The fact that semen contains prostaglandins has also led to the claim that semen’s cervical softening capacity can make your period come faster.

How Strong Is This Research?

Sex can jump start your period (if you’re nearly at that point in your cycle anyway) but it’s not just about semen. In fact, most of how this works is that when you’re turned on, there’s an increased blood flow to your vaginal area. This causes your vaginal walls to contract. When the extra blood recedes after you’re all done being hot and bothered, your vaginal muscles relax; this effect is even more intense if you orgasm. The relaxation helps to trigger your uterine lining to start shedding. If you have sex that results in semen ending up in your vagina, the prostaglandins in the seminal fluid can help along the process by softening your cervix — which is one of the first steps in menstruation.

So … Is It True?

It’s hard to say. It’s well-regarded that seminal prostaglandins soften up your cervix, and that your cervix needs to soften before menstruation. However, I couldn’t find any solid research that looked into people having sex right before their period with condoms and without to actually figure out how relevant the semen part is to triggering menstruation.

Claim #8: Semen Can Trigger Ovulation

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A lesser-known claim is that that semen can trigger ovulation — even when it’s not that time of the month.

How Strong Is The Research?

This claim comes mostly from a single study that found that Nerve Growth Factor (which remember is in semen) can jump-start ovulation. The study was based on research that Nerve Growth Factor communicates with the brain to trigger ovulation in many mammals. Biologists have actually known about this process for a long time because some mammals only ovulate after they have had sex and there is semen in their bodies. Yep, that’s true of llamas and a bunch of other animals. But after researchers noticed that this protein also works on cows, which ovulate cyclically like humans, someone thought maybe this works for us too!

So … Is It True?

While it's definitely true that Nerve Growth Factor is present in semen and that its presence triggers ovulation in other animals, we still don’t know if it acts on our bodies in the same way.

Claim #9: Swallowing Semen Can Lower Your Blood Pressure

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Many articles claim that if you swallow semen, it can result in lower blood pressure.

How Strong Is This Research?

This claim is mostly just incorrectly-worded. What semen actually is proven to do is prevent preeclampsia, which is a condition during pregnancy wherein your blood pressure gets really high. A study found that swallowing semen is correlated to a lower risk of preeclampsia. And the reason why will blow your mind.

Basically, when you have a bun in the oven, your body decides to tolerate a foreign thing inside you so your immune system won’t attack your growing baby. In people who develop preeclampsia, some researchers posit that this tolerance has failed and your immune system is attacking your fetus. Based on this hypothesis, it’s not just any semen you should be swallowing, but the semen of the person who co-made your baby. If this hypothesis is true, your body really cares about paternity.

So … Is It True?

More research needs to be done, but preliminary data shows that this one might indeed be true.

Claim #10: Semen Helps Combat Morning Sickness

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There’s also a claim that if you swallow the semen of the person who got you pregnant, it can help with morning sickness.

How Strong Is This Research?

This claim comes from a psychologist named Dr. Gordon Gallup, who believes that morning sickness also comes from the body’s rejection of your partner’s seed as a foreign body. Following this argument, you can combat morning sickness by getting your body used to the sperm —  if you swallow it. Dr. Gallup claims that this practice of swallowing can even improve morning sickness in future pregnancies, because your body has even more time to get used to the foreign DNA flooding your system. However, this claim has yet to be scientifically tested.

So … Is It True?

Until the anti-sickness properties of semen are rigorously tested and proven, we can chalk this up as a way for soon-to-be parents with penises to argue for head while their sweeties are pregnant.

Claim #11: Semen Can Increase Your Energy

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Many listicles on the health benefits of semen include that it increases energy.

How Strong Is This Research?

I couldn’t find any strong research on this topic, so I guess the jury’s still out. What I do know is that humans with vaginas are more likely to be energized after a sexual romp. Orgasms release a body chemical called prolactin, which contributes to sleepy feelings by suppressing another chemical called dopamine, which helps keep you awake. However, some researchers say that if you have a female reproductive system, your body releases less prolactin, making you less sleepy after you come.

So … Is It True?

Someone needs to do a solid study to find out!

Claim #12: Semen Can Slow Aging

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This claim comes from the fact that semen has zinc in it, an antioxidant that some people believe slows down the aging process — specifically when it comes to skin and muscles.

How Strong Is This Research?

Zinc’s claim to anti-aging comes from the fact that it is a key player in your body’s ability to properly create proteins. As you get older, your body becomes less good at creating well-formed proteins, which can cause all manner of problems. Zinc doesn’t slow down your aging (it’s not a vampiric elixir of life or anything like that) but it can keep your proteins forming correctly for longer.

So … Is It True?

It is definitely true that zinc is good for continued health as you age. However, research needs to be done to see whether the amount of zinc you can get through semen is enough — if you’re really worried about aging, you should probably go with a multivitamin.

Claim #13: Semen Reduces Pain

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Some claim that semen can act as a natural painkiller.

How Strong Is This Research?

I couldn’t find any research that semen specifically can diminish pain. However, there’s lots of research that sex itself can! Orgasm releases oxytocin and endorphins, both of which diminish pain. So if your sex includes orgasming, that might be the reason for your pain reduction.

So … Is It True?

Again, someone needs to actually do the research on this so we can know for sure. Right now, however, there's no evidence.

Claim #14: Semen Can Help Reduce Your Risk Of Cancer

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One of the wildest claims is that swallowing semen can reduce breast cancer risk. For real?!

How Strong Is This Research?

This claim mostly points back to a 10-year study that found that people who consume “large quantities” of semen are way less likely to get cancer. Basically, these people (who had genetically high risk for breast or ovarian cancer) were fed 5-6 milliliters of semen a couple times a week for 10 years (fun!). Only three percent of the subjects developed cancer signs during the study, versus 43 percent of the control group — and once you do the fancy math on that, it means that swallowing can reduce cancer risk by as much as 58 percent.

So … Is It True?

This one actually seems like it could be true. The researchers identified an enzyme (called Argininosuccinate Chrysotrophin) within semen that fights cancer. This finding is contributing to cancer research right now.

The Bottom Line

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Sex is really fun, and so every time an article pops up telling us that it’s also going to save our lives, naturally, we get excited. Unfortunately, a lot of the claims that get recycled in catchy clickbait titles are either misinterpretations of far more complex scientific studies or complete myth.

However, some of these claims are true, and for a lot of the rest … we just don’t know yet. Solid research takes lots of time, reiteration, and funding. So if you want to help future people get really excited about the health benefits of sex, one thing to do is actually research these. Then get back to us — we’ll be so excited to learn the outcome!