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Hiding a Pregnancy on Television

Updated on August 3, 2017
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Phoebe gave birth to her brother's babies after Lisa Kudrow became pregnant.Jennifer Gardner's pregnancy is incorporated into the plot of 'Alias.'
Phoebe gave birth to her brother's babies after Lisa Kudrow became pregnant.
Phoebe gave birth to her brother's babies after Lisa Kudrow became pregnant.
Jennifer Gardner's pregnancy is incorporated into the plot of 'Alias.'
Jennifer Gardner's pregnancy is incorporated into the plot of 'Alias.'

What happens when the actress of a TV show gets pregnant? They are not expected to put their life on hold just for a television role. This can be a somewhat of a problem to the producers of a series. The viewer will definitely be confused when a female character suddenly shows up with an unexplainable baby bump. In some cases, the writers opt to create a pregnancy story arc for the character.

For example, when Lisa Kudrow of Friends became pregnant, a storyline was created in which she was going to be a surrogate mother for her brother’s babies. In Alias, when Jennifer Gardner became pregnant during the last season, her character Sydney Bristow also became pregnant. This can be an effective solution on some TV shows. Maybe a pregnancy can create the perfect drama that is needed to move the story forward. However, making the character pregnant doesn’t always solve the problem. It might be completely out of character or just not where the story was headed. When this happens, the only choice is to come up with some crafty ideas to reduce the damage to the suspension of disbelief.

I will give a few examples of some of the techniques that are used to hide the growing bellies of pregnant actresses.

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Courtney Cox's pregnancy had to be hidden because Monica and Chandler couldn't conceive.Carrie Bradshaw is using flowy dresses to hide Sarah Jessica Parker's baby bump.
Courtney Cox's pregnancy had to be hidden because Monica and Chandler couldn't conceive.
Courtney Cox's pregnancy had to be hidden because Monica and Chandler couldn't conceive.
Carrie Bradshaw is using flowy dresses to hide Sarah Jessica Parker's baby bump.
Carrie Bradshaw is using flowy dresses to hide Sarah Jessica Parker's baby bump.

Baggy Clothes

This is the most popular way to hide a pregnancy. Baggy clothes are used instead of a form-fitting wardrobe so that the baby bump isn’t as noticeable. However, you can still kind of tell the actress is pregnant. Their stomach isn't the only sign. You can tell that a woman is pregnant by noticing weight gain, a rounder face, and even slightly bigger breasts.

When Courtney Cox got pregnant on the last season of Friends, the writers of the show had already created a storyline that could not be altered. Monica and Chandler couldn’t conceive and the characters had already opted for adoption when Cox became pregnant with her daughter Coco. To hide her pregnancy, Monica is seen wearing loose clothing until the end of the show.

Another show that did a wardrobe change was Sex and the City. Since the show was known for its amazing outfits, the costume designers had more liberty in dressing the character of Carrie when Sarah Jessica Parker became pregnant. She wears flowy dresses to hide her baby bump and they cut the season short so that she could go on maternity leave.

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Different methods were used to hide the pregnancies of Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders. This included playing a guitar, hiding behind a basketball rack, and using big purses.
Different methods were used to hide the pregnancies of Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders. This included playing a guitar, hiding behind a basketball rack, and using big purses.
Different methods were used to hide the pregnancies of Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders. This included playing a guitar, hiding behind a basketball rack, and using big purses.

Carrying Items

Another way to hide a pregnancy is to carry boxes or other bulky items in front of the stomach. You'll see the character always suspiciously covering themselves with objects. They'll sometimes carry bigger purses than they had before, if they had them at all. They'll typically be clutching those huge purses for dear life, as if they were worried of being mugged. You may notice them strangely carrying those large purses inside their own homes.

On the fourth season of How I Met Your Mother, both Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders became pregnant at the same time. They used the technique of hiding themselves behind objects. You suddenly saw them wearing extremely large and ugly purses. Sometimes they carried around boxes or were playing a guitar, which we never knew they could play. In one episode, a hotdog eating contest was used to explain Lily’s big belly.

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To hide Phylicia Rashad's pregnancy, her character was hiding behind the kitchen counter, sitting behind desks, and wearing baggy clothes.
To hide Phylicia Rashad's pregnancy, her character was hiding behind the kitchen counter, sitting behind desks, and wearing baggy clothes.
To hide Phylicia Rashad's pregnancy, her character was hiding behind the kitchen counter, sitting behind desks, and wearing baggy clothes.

Obstacles

Another technique is to have the actress stand behind obstacles. This can include tables, kitchen counters, and even other cast members. Sharp viewers can suddenly notice that they never see a full body shot of the actress.

In The Cosby Show, they went as far as to install a new kitchen counter for when Phylicia Rashad became pregnant. The counter was noticeably taller than the one in the previous seasons. The character of Clair was written as constantly being in the kitchen doing different things. They also made a hole in Clair’s side of the bed so that they could hide Rashad’s elevated stomach when Cliff and Clair were lying in bed.

In Cheers, both Rhea Pearlman and Shelly Long became pregnant at the same time. Pearlman’s pregnancy was written into the plot, but Long’s wasn’t. To hide Diane’s growing belly, they had her stand behind the bar a lot. She was usually sitting down as well.

Camera Angles

Using camera angles is another cunning way to hide a pregnancy. All they have to do is make sure that the actress is only shown on camera from above the upper chest or in close-ups. This may seem like the easiest way to hide a pregnancy but this can't be done all the time. This might work on some occasions but wide camera angles are important for a television show, especially sitcoms. The interaction between the characters is needed. If the character is alone, this is definitely the way to go. But when there are more people on the scene, other techniques have to be used.

For the pregnancy of Amy Poehler, it was decided to put her show on hiatus.
For the pregnancy of Amy Poehler, it was decided to put her show on hiatus.

Hiatus

The simplest way to deal with this predicament may be to remove the actress for a while. Some actresses go on maternity leave until they give birth to their child. This can work if they aren't the main character of the show. The writers can come up with some creative storyline to explain their absence.

When Sarah Wayne Callies of Prison Break became pregnant, a storyline was put in motion that had her missing and presumed dead, only for her to return in season four. When it’s the main character that needs a little break from shooting, they might cut the season short like they did in Sex and the City. Conversely, production might be delayed like when Amy Poehler became pregnant during the third season of Parks and Recreation. The season was pushed back from September 2010 to January 2011.

As you can see, hiding a pregnancy on television can be a tricky thing. A lot of effort has to be made to conceal an actress and make it believable. Using props or clever storytelling are some of the ways that this can be done. Sometimes the audience notices, sometimes they don’t. But we learn to ignore it. After all, who are we to deny these wonderful actresses their bundles of joy?

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    • profile image

      Wy 3 years ago

      Good to know...I was wondering why sex and the city season 5 was so short, didn't make sense, and why carrie suddenly had bigger boobs

    • profile image

      Romi 3 years ago

      This is the best one, Lauren Lane on The Nanny:

      "Hide Your Pregnancy: C.C., whose actor was pregnant at the time, lampshades this and provides the picture for the page. She enters Maxwell's office wearing all black and refers to Hide Your Pregnancy techniques used on Elaine from Seinfeld, including the holding massive objects. At the time, she is holding a huge purse, and after putting it down, picks up a potted plant she says needs to be watered before exiting the scene.

      She later reenters the room holding a giant sign that says "BABY"."

    • YadiraE profile image
      Author

      YadiraE 3 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Wow! I didn't know that one about X-files! Coolness! Thank you everyone for all your comments!

    • profile image

      Mary 3 years ago

      On the second season of X-Files Scully was abducted by aliens because of Gillian Anderson's pregnancy. That was soo cool!

    • amandajoyshapiro profile image

      amandajoyshapiro 3 years ago

      With so many options actresses have to hide their pregnancies, it also makes you wish men could do the same when they've gained some weight. LOL. This hub reminds me of the episode in Beverly Hills 90210 when Jennie Garth was pregnant but her character Kelly wasn't: Jason Priestly hid her stomach with a large shopping bag as she rode a mall escalator.

    • Dancilla profile image

      Priscilla 5 years ago from El Paso

      You really write about an interesting topic. Another example I saw was in Bones, they used the pregnancy of the main character to continue on with the show. Very good hub, enjoyed reading it.

    • profile image

      Emma 5 years ago

      Charmed did it for the sixth season when Holly Marie Combs (they finally wrote in the pregnancy when Holly was 6 months along) and they used some very funny strategies. In one (really bad) episode she gets her head chopped off and you only see her head for the rest of the episode. It was tough for a show like Charmed because not only would it be impossible to continue without Holly, but there are so many stunts and such.

    • profile image

      timepope 5 years ago

      I got to this as I was just watch Star Trek Voyager, and was traying to figure out why Bellana(the Kingon lady) Sorry my spelling.

      Was sudently I noticed she was wearing some new "tool shirt" until I realized, "OH they draw away my attention from boobs and belly"

      I find this amazing. We all know we are simple automotons. But when its pointed outlike this we are awed.

    • profile image

      Debbie 5 years ago

      Someone needed to proof read this article. Lots of mistakes! "phobe gives birth to HIS brothers baby" "taken the actress away" instead of TAKING....theres lots more but whatever, too late now!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Great observations! I notice this too and it doesn't really distract from the story. I find it more interesting when actresses are fake pregnant and they try to make it look natural onscreen. Great hub!

    • Robin Oatley profile image

      Robin Oatley 5 years ago

      Funny thing, just lately I was watching all kinds of shows wherein an actress became pregnant, and these techniques were used. At first, I didn't notice, but now I have I can't help but keep looking at how the directors and actresses are trying to conceal the big bellies and judge whether they succeeded.

      Nice hub!

    • Garlonuss profile image

      Garlonuss 5 years ago from Saratoga Springs, Utah

      They even had to deal with this in Star Trek. When Gates McFadden got pregnant, Dr. Crusher started wearing her long surgical coat more. When Roxann Dawson got pregnant, B'Elana Torres started wearing this cool bomber jacket that we'd never seen before. But what I like most was that when Nana Visitor got pregnant, they actually had Keiko O'Brien get pregnant then, after an accident, the fetus itself was transferred into Major Kira who carried it to term. There's even a scene where she looks at Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig), who had done the emergency transfer, and says "this is your fault." Funny, since the baby was a result of Visitor and Siddig's off-screen activities.

    • profile image

      Sandy 5 years ago

      Clever observations, how easy it seems to hide the pregnancy from the viewers but and real life quite the opposite. If it were only that easy.In many occacions hidding the bump can be life threatning to the baby as well as for the mother.

    • Rachelle Williams profile image

      Rachelle Williams 5 years ago from Tempe, AZ

      Cute Hub!