Coronation Street has bid a temporary farewell to Shona Platt (Julia Goulding) who has been carted off to a rehab unit in Leeds, following her dramatic shooting at Christmas which put her in a coma and has now caused amnesia.
Off screen, actress Goulding is on maternity leave after giving birth to a son, Franklin Wolf, with partner Ben Silver back in November, hence the need for her alter ego to be written out for a while.
When soaps deal with real life pregnancies the actress in question used to just be quietly called away to stay with a sick relative and help them recuperate, but writers are finding increasingly more dramatic ways to explain why characters have to stay away for months at a time. With Shona's life shattered, here are some more examples of extreme soap maternity leave storylines…
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Stacey Fowler (EastEnders)
Rather than have Stacey disappear off to stay with Little Mo, Belinda, Lynne or any of the assorted absent Slater girls to accommodate Lacey Turner's pregnancy, Mrs Fowler was forced to go on the run after she lamped Phil Mitchell over the head to stop him beating up hubby Martin. This set off the chain of events that saw Martin morph into a bad boy gangster to keep Ben Mitchell from shopping his missus, to the point where their once-strong marriage is now in pieces after he lied he'd cheated on her just to stop her returning to Walford, thus avoiding Ben's threats.
Protecting Stace led to Martin spiral into self-destruction and he's now actually been unfaithful with both Ruby and Sonia. Basically, Stacey's entire life has been wrecked and we're stumped as to why she'd even want to come home once Turner's maternity leave is up, following the birth of daughter Dusty Violet in July 2019.
Kylie Platt (Coronation Street)
Rough diamond Kylie cleaned up her act and settled down to a life of domestic bliss with David, but when actress Paula Lane fell pregnant in 2014 her character swiftly became addicted to son Max's ADHD medication and was driven out by her family for being a druggie. Kylie returned and became a killer, clobbering ex-boyfriend Callum Logan to death and burying him in the granny annexe, and by the time she was pregnant with her second child she decided to quit Corrie altogether and Kylie was fatally stabbed.
Charity Dingle (Emmerdale)
Emma Atkins kept her real life pregnancy on the down-low, so it wasn't really public knowledge when her character Charity Dingle was sent to prison for perverting the course of justice back in 2015. In a genius parallel twist, when Debbie visited her mum six months into a two-year sentence, Charity revealed she had been up the duff when she got banged up and never told anyone. She had a boy, Moses, who she put in Deb's care until she was released a few months later. They even threw a 'who's the daddy' plot in there, as Charity refused to name the father - later revealed as bad boy Ross Barton.
Linda Carter (EastEnders)
It started as a fairly typical maternity plot - L went to tend to poorly mum Elaine Peacock for an unspecified period of time - when Kellie Bright had her second baby in 2016 (a son, Gene), but by the time Mrs Carter came back a whole other storyline had been devised that had taken place off screen. Linda eventually confessed to husband Mick she had stayed away longer because she'd been diagnosed with cervical cancer during her absence and didn't want to burden him with it. Had Mick known what his wife secretly went through, would he have ever embarked on that ill-fated dalliance with daughter-in-law Whitney while she was away?
Cleo McQueen (Hollyoaks)
Nadine Mulkerrin was expecting Hollyoaks' first inter-cast baby with co-star Rory Douglas-Speed (Joel Dexter), but her workload before giving birth to son Reggie in October 2019 was far from light as she hid her expanding bump behind oversize bags and high worktops. To facilitate Cleo fleeing the village there was an emotional, all-consuming three-hander episode also featuring boyfriend Mitchell Deveraux and her best mate Scott Drinkwell, who it turned out had been having an affair behind the nurse's back.
"I was a bit nervous about having so much dialogue when I had baby brain, but I got there and it was brilliant,” remarked the actress. “I kept thinking the baby probably thought his mum was a bit mad because I just kept screaming the whole time, but hopefully he knows it was just acting! Sometimes I’d be doing a scene and he’d kick for a second, I’d kind of be taken out of being Cleo. The crew looked after me, I got to sit down a lot and eat loads of biscuits! The director was clever with the angles and masking the bump. It’s a good job I’m not easily offended because of the amount of times they shouted over the monitor: ‘We can see Nadine’s belly!’ It was a challenge!”