Hollyoaks‘ parents-to-be Mandy Morgan (Sarah Jayne Dunn) and Darren Osborne (Ashley Taylor Dawson) are given the life-changing news by doctors next week that their unborn baby has spina bifida.
Following a recent miscarriage scare, Mandy had preliminary tests which flagged the possibility her child has the neural condition, which occurs when the baby’s spine and spinal cord don’t develop fully in the womb, causing a gap in the spine. Darren was unaware his partner had even gone to hospital, and remains in the dark until Mandy admits all the day before their scan, which confirms the diagnosis for their baby.
In the E4 episode showing on Monday 17 December, the couple are at odds with Darren devastated Mandy kept something so huge from him, but after a pep talk from ex-wife Nancy, who accompanied her love rival to the initial tests, and dad Jack, the pair are united as they attend the scan.
What is spina bifida and how will it affect Mandy’s baby?
According to the NHS website, spina bifida is a type of defect in the neural tube defect, which is the structure that eventually develops into the baby’s brain and spinal cord. If the neural tube does not develop of close properly, as it usually does four weeks after conception, it leads to defects in the spinal cord and bones of the spine. Due to the damage to the nervous system, spina bifida can lead to weakness or paralysis of the legs, loss of skin sensation, brain damage and incontinence.
“It’s another important subject Hollyoaks is dealing with,” says Dunn, praising the show’s tackling of the condition which is set to be a long-term storyline for Mandy and Darren. “It’s a topic that hasn’t been touched on before. It puts the couple right in at the deep end, they had the affair but the actual relationship has not been going for that long, and suddenly this happens.”
“As them being together was built on negativity and lies, Darren and Mandy have not cemented themselves as a very steady couple, and this is thrown in,” observes Taylor Dawson. “But in some ways the news about the baby brings them closer together, but they deal with it in different ways.”
Dunn reveals they have already began researching the topic: “Ashley and I are both parents and we’ve learnt a lot through reading up on spina bifida, which is more common than I realised. I’ve had storylines about Mandy and motherhood before but this is the first time where I’ve actually now got my own child and it’s easier to relate to how the character feels, and the decisions they’ve got to come to – and what it means moving forward for her and Darren as parents.”
The next few months will fully explore the diagnosis for Mandy and Darren’s baby, including a special episode early in 2019 focusing on diversity and disability within the community that sees the couple face tough choices about the health of their unborn child.
Next week also sees the return of Mandy’s ex Luke Morgan (Gary Lucy) when she visits him in prison, teased in the recent Hollyoaks winter trailer. Does she plan to tell him face-to-face about her pregnancy before he hears she’s having a baby with his best mate, the man she left him for, before he hears it second-hand? Or is there another reason she needs to see her ex in the flesh?
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