Now, the UK’s top doctor has revealed her own ordeal to break the most embarrassing taboo of all

‘We women, after we’ve had babies, can be damaged so that we get incontinence and actually — I’ve never gone public about this — after my first child I could only go three yards before I peed my pants.’

These are the words of Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, who last week, revealed she’d been virtually housebound for six weeks after the birth of her first daughter Olivia, now 26.

Dame Sally also said that even after all this time the issue was not completely sorted: ‘I’m still not as I would wish to be.’

It was a brave admission from the most senior doctor in the country, and one that will have resonated with millions of women, many of whom live in silence with the shame of their condition. For Dame Sally’s comments have drawn the spotlight onto one of medicine’s last taboos.

‘It is a huge problem — around seven million women have some degree of incontinence — and it’s a hidden problem, because so many are too embarrassed to seek help,’ says Jeremy Ockrim, a consultant urologist at the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in London.