Nearly half of men dont seek medical help after a year or more of not being able to get their partners pregnant, a study in the journal Human Reproduction found.
Chalk it up to pride, says Stanton Honig, M.D., urologist and director of Mens Health at Yale University School of Medicine.
A man dealing with infertility may feel like it makes him less of a manand he may put off seeing the doctor to avoid confirming that a problem exists.
Whats more, many men incorrectly assume that if their partner cant get pregnant, its likely due to a problem on her end, Dr. Honig says.
Not so: Infertility affects men and women equally, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
And avoiding the appointment can do more than delay parenthood. In rare cases, male infertility may be a sign of a more serious conditionlike testicular cancerthat can lower your sperm count, Dr. Honig says.
In that case, an early diagnosis could help you get treated before the cancer has a chance to spread.
Dont freak out, though. Its more likely that the culprit is less seriouslike a hormone imbalance or a physical obstruction in your scrotal region that can be fixed by surgery. Diabetes and high blood pressure can also play a role.
ASRM guidelines say to make an appointment with a urologist if youve been having unprotected sex for a year or longer and havent gotten your partner pregnant.
But if you have a history of problems that may affect your sperm, such as undescended testis, prior testis or scrotal surgery, prior chemotherapy or radiation, small testis, or if you use anabolic steroids, then you should get evaluated sooner, Dr. Honig says.
The appointment isnt as uncomfortable as you might expect, either.
Most men think the exam will be painful or theyll be violated, but its just the opposite, Dr. Honig says. It involves a discussion, a painless physical exam, and a semen analysis.
Related: 7 Signs You Have Healthy Semen
If your doctor finds a problem, the best treatment will vary widely depending on your specific diagnosis.
For more information on your infertility workup, causes of infertility, and treatments available, check out The Complete Guide to Infertility For Men.