Being truly candid about our lives and the challenges we face even to those closest around us, never mind the world, is a daunting undertaking for many, but Christine McGuinness has embraced this opportunity to discuss her late autism diagnosis in the hope of shining a light on the issue.

In 2021, the 34-year-old TV star and author discovered she is autistic and suddenly her whole life began to make sense as the struggles she experienced growing up became more clear and she started to look at things with a new perspective and figure out who she really is.

Her new documentary, Christine McGuinness: Unmasking My Autism, sees her uncover a world of autistic women and girls who have been misunderstood by science and society, meaning that many are living undiagnosed.

She admits she was initially worried about focusing on just women and girls in case there were claims that the programme was being sexist but she felt it was important to raise questions about the effects of gender bias in diagnoses and support.

"I just thought 'No, there has got to be a reason that women are getting diagnosed later on in life and I need to explore that and try to help that stop happening', because it can really affect mental health and you can end up with other different diagnoses that may possibly be avoided if they were diagnosed (with autism) sooner," says McGuinness.

The documentary is also a journey of self-discovery for the presenter who explores the links between her autism, having an eating disorder and the prevalence of autistic women who have experienced sexual abuse like she did as a teenager.

She also discusses her marriage to Top Gear presenter Paddy, who she wed in 2011 and with whom she shares children Felicity and twins Leo and Penelope.

The couple revealed last July they had separated, just seven months after their moving BBC documentary Our Family And Autism which reflects on McGuinness and her three children's autism diagnoses.

She speaks honestly about their marriage in her latest documentary, revealing that she felt like she was playing the role of a wife and a mum at times and how her desire to feel safe kept her in the relationship.

"I didn't want my family to ever fall apart and that's why I stayed married," she admits.

"But as an autistic woman I like to stay where I'm comfortable, I like things to stay the same. So that's one thing I suppose I chose to do, not because I'm autistic but, as I understand myself better now, because that's where I'm comfortable, just knowing that it was me and Patrick and the children.

"But sometimes change has to happen. You just have to deal with it in the best way possible."

She adds: "I think when I say playing a role I mean I take it to the extreme, I wanted to be the perfect wife and the perfect mum.

"I insisted on doing absolutely everything. I wanted to go to every meeting and I wanted to stay at home, I wanted to cook and clean and have all of the clothes lined up perfectly. I wanted to do every single school run, every single bedtime.

"When really, now I understand it, actually being a mum isn't just having everything perfect. You can be a mum and you can go to work and you can have a social life and you can go out and you can do all of these things and still be a great mum.

"It was just in my head as I understood it as an autistic mum, I really magnified what a mum is."

McGuinness says she is not thinking about dating again currently but is instead focusing on her children, career and continuing to open the dialogue surrounding autism.

In the programme she also meets other autistic mothers which allowed her to form friendships with women who could relate personally to her life experiences.

"I just do find it harder to keep a friendship going with neurotypical people," she explains.

"I can do it, I can socialise for a bit and I can be polite to everybody and I can go into a room and get along with most people but it's continuing a friendship, like building some kind of a relationship that's the part that I really struggle with. But with those girls it was quite easy."

McGuinness hopes showing a greater diversity of autistic people and women within the documentary and highlighting the challenges they face, often internally, will help challenge preconceptions about the condition.

She also wishes for the government to tackle the diagnosis waiting list and for the conversation to be continued by educating children from their early years about emotions and neurodivergence.

"I do think all schools need some kind of lessons and if we have to lose a bit of time in another lesson in something to be taught more about relationships, emotions, friendships, security ... for younger children to understand all of that, especially if you're autistic and you're an autistic girl, could potentially change their lives and help them so much more."

McGuinness speaks from experience as she says this honest deep dive has helped her accept herself more.

"I'm a lot less apologetic about myself now," she says.

"Love is quite a strong word, isn't it? I don't know if I could fully love myself but I'm proud of myself and I'm happy with where I am right now."

Christine McGuinness: Unmasking My Autism, BBC1 at 9pm on Wednesday.