For Luisa Zissman, it was one of the most embarrassing moments of her life. And she’s appeared on The Apprentice.
While performing a fitness test to qualify for a charity horse race, she lost control of her bladder.
“I was doing my ‘bleep test’ where you run back and forth between two beeps which get faster and faster and honestly I had no control,” admits the 32-year-old from Herts.
“I wet myself to the point you could see it. It was a full-on wet patch front and back, in front of 20 people – including a television film crew with the cameras rolling.
“That was one of the most embarrassing things that has ever happened to me, but I’m competitive so I didn’t want to stop running because I didn’t want to fail. All I could say was ‘I’ve had three kids!’.
“I just had to try to front it out and said, ‘Guys, we’ve all seen Paula Radcliffe do it on TV’. I had worn two pairs of pants and a pad and it still came through.”
Luisa first experienced urinary incontinence when she was pregnant with her third child, Clementine, who is now 18 months.
“I had morning sickness and when I puked I would pee myself.
“At the time I thought it was the weight of the baby, but about three months after she was born I got a sickness bug and it happened again.
“I think having a third baby tipped me over the edge.
“After Dixie, who is nine, I was fine but I got pregnant with Clementine when my second baby, Indigo, was only five months and she was the trickiest birth. She got stuck and the consultant had to manipulate her to get her out.
“I don’t know if my problem is caused by trauma or just having two consecutive babies very quickly, but now whether I’m sneezing, laughing or running I pee myself.
“The only forms of exercise I can do without wetting myself are Pilates and horse riding.”
It’s a relief for the Celebrity Big Brother star that she hasn’t had to give up her horse due to the problem – she’s been riding since she was four and this August is taking part in the Magnolia Cup, a charity horse race at Goodwood, to raise funds for Wellbeing of Women.
“I’m proud to be racing for an amazing charity,” she says. “They do loads of research into urinary incontinence and chatting about my issue has been really interesting. From what I heard when I visited their offices, Botox might even be able to help me.”
Luisa is certainly not alone. Incontinence is a significant issue for approximately three million women in the UK. Six weeks after pregnancy, 33% of women report urinary incontinence and one in three will suffer from it at some point.
“I’m quite open about my problem now and just say, ‘Oh my God, I’m peeing’ if I have an accident around friends. I feel like loads of women actually suffer but don’t talk about it.
“Once, while making my podcast, Loose Lips, I laughed so much that my co-host Anna Williamson thought I’d lost control of my bowels as well. But I had peed so much it had made my fake tan run, which had stained my clothes. I had to go and change.”
Luisa has used several gadgets to try and solve the problem, “I used this manual Kegel exerciser and one which was a bit like a Slendertone. You insert it and it electrocutes the muscles but that put me right off so I only used it a couple of times,” she says.
And now she is only just starting to have medical investigations to get to the bottom of her issues.
“I’ve seen a doctor, Linda Cardozo, who is professor of urogynaecology at King’s College Hospital,” she says. “She the leading doctor and I’ve only had my first appointment but she says I’ve a weak pelvic floor and need further tests.
“I’ve got to go under general anaesthetic to have a biopsy, a cystoscopy and a load of other things. To be honest I’ve just been too busy to book it but I desperately need to have it done.”
The entrepreneur, who launched her own cupcake business, says she can’t help but feel let down by the care she received when she had her babies.
“No one mentioned my bladder at any appointments at the hospital. I was told to do pelvic floor exercises but no one said, ‘You are going to pee yourself after you have kids’. I haven’t got any friends who didn’t suffer from this once they’d given birth.
“It’s normal – we need to be less British about things. We focus so much on what we look like, but we need to sort our insides out.”