Having a character on a TV show get pregnant can make or break a show. Sometimes the kids don’t really show up much, like on Friends. And sometimes they act as a super strange plot device like on The Vampire Diaries. Either way, they are a surefire way to shake a TV show up. But sometimes an on-screen pregnancy isn’t only happening on-screen — it’s happening in real life as well!
Plenty of actresses have pulled double-duty, being pregnant on-screen and off. Many of their pregnancies were written into the show, but it’s truly a shock when they just happened to serendipitously line up with the plot… divine intervention perhaps? Regardless, instead of covering up their baby bumps during filming, they got to show off their growing bellies. There are plenty of actresses becoming real-life mamas just as their characters were. Talk about art imitating life… or the reverse!
17. Hayden Panettiere, Nashville
When Hayden told the Nashville showrunners she was pregnant, they decided to write the pregnancy into the show ASAP. And it worked out well in a way that many TV pregnancies often don’t! But there as another, bit sadder part of the story that ended up foreshadowing Hayden’s real-life: her character’s struggle with postpartum depression. The former Disney Channel Original Movie star herself entered treatment for PPD after the birth of her child. That particular storyline was already planned before the actress even had her baby! Talk about a scary coincidence. Luckily, both Hayden and her character were able to bring more awareness to how truly common postpartum depression can be.
16. Kaitlyn Olson, It’s Always Sunny in Philidelphia
When Olson and her husband, Always Sunny co-star Rob McElhenney, announced they were having a child, she showrunners wrote the pregnancy into the show in the most ridiculous way possible. One day, Dee is suddenly pregnant, and everyone is left wondering who the father is. While it’s actually none of the gang, she does scare them with the possibility that it could be. It turns out that she’s actually carrying the baby for a transgender woman who Mac dated back in the day. The whole pregnancy is done so nonchalantly that it really could only work on a show as wild as this one. And the best part? McElhenney started the arc of “Fat Mac” on the show after gaining so much weight alongside his wife when she was pregnant! Luckily, they didn’t write an actual baby into the Paddy’s Pub gang. None of them are suitable to take care of a child – not even close!
15. Jennifer Garner, Alias
Remember when Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck were happily married and popping out babies?! Back in 2005, the scenario was just that, and Garner was still the star of her own hit TV show Alias. Seeing no other options, Jen’s pregnancy had to be written into her show. Her character was so physical that there would be no way to hide a pregnancy and somehow make her do backflips and crazy stunts! The show ended up casting another spy to serve under Sydney Bristow and take the pressure off the pregnant CIA officer!
14. Holly Marie Combs, Charmed
At first, Holly’s pregnancy was just going to be covered up by baggy clothes and well-placed furniture, until the show’s writers decided Piper was due for baby #2 anyways. After introducing the character Chris the season before without much backstory or clear motivation, they decided to rework his story a bit to serve Piper’s new trajectory. Ultimately, they decided Chris would be a future version of her unborn baby, who time-traveled to save his brother from becoming evil. However, toying with the past almost ruined the possibility of him getting conceived! The storyline was a little convoluted and thrown together, but in the end, it worked out well enough. Combs was able to keep her day job without hiding behind giant purses all the time!
13. Lucille Ball, I Love Lucy
Lucille Ball’s was one of the very first off-screen pregnancies written into a TV show. She made herstory! During the second season of the show, the comedian found out she was pregnant with her second child, and instead of beating around the bush, they decided to make Lucy Ricardo with-child, too. But at the time, this move was super controversial! On the show, Lucy and her husband slept in separate twin beds, and the idea that they had sex was ~scandalous~… yes, even though they were married. My, how times have changed. They couldn’t even use the terminology “pregnant” on the show — instead, they had to say she was “with child.” Eek. We’ve come a long way since then!
12. Rachel Bilson, Hart of Dixie
Bilson and her ex Hayden Christensen were ecstatic to find out they were having a child. But would the pregnancy put her life as a southern belle on Hart of Dixie at risk? The show’s writers decided to make her character pregnant after a one night stand with her ex! And people thought the I Love Lucy pregnancy was controversial! It worked well on the show and created flux and drama for a character who always tries to be put together. On a CW show you always want more drama!
11. Chelsea Peretti, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
When Peretti and longtime love Jordan Peele found out they were having a baby, Brooklyn Nine-Nine wasn’t quite sure how to handle her character, Gina’s pregnancy. They even had Gina get hit by a bus during the midseason finale while they figured out what to do! Ultimately, the decision was made to write in the pregnancy for Chelsea’s character, mostly because losing the hilarious actress would be a massive hit for the show. Peretti got time off to spend with her newborn, since her character took maternity leave from the police precinct at the same time! That’s how to do it, people!
10. Bethany Joy Lenz, One Tree Hill
Bethany Joy Lenz’s character Haley may have been pregnant with her second child in season eight of the hit show, but Lenz herself was actually pregnant with her first baby in real life! While Haley and her on-screen hubby Nathan (James Lafferty) were getting ready for a new bundle of joy, Bethany was prepping with her off-screen husband Michael Galeotti for their first. And on-screen and off, Bethany had a beautiful baby girl!
9. Molly Ringwald, The Secret Life of the American Teenager
No, none of the “American teenager” pregnancy were IRL ones – which made this one a bit of a surprise! 40-year-old Molly Ringwald found out she was pregnant unexpectedly — just like her on-screen daughter had! When it came to whether or not they would write this pregnancy into the show, Ringwald was a driving force in the showrunner’s decision to include it. Secret Life never stopped with the plot twists, and this was a great one to throw in. Plus, Molly herself said she didn’t want to walk around “with towels in front of [her]” all season! Fair enough!
8. Emily Deschanel, Bones
Zooey Deschanel took a break from New Girl when she got pregnant – leading her character to getting put into sequester for jury duty and spend some time away from the loft – but big sister, Emily’s pregnancy was dealt with in a very different way. Emily didn’t have to hide her burgeoning bump or get too creative with the wardrobe because her character was pregnant, too! The actress noted that her experience with on-screen motherhood mirrored what was happening in her real life at the time, including storylines about weight changes and sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, though, Deschanel’s baby was born before her character’s so she did have to spend a little time wearing a fake belly for the cameras!
7. Katey Sagal, Married…With Children
During the sixth season of this long-running TV show, Katey Sagal got pregnant — and on a show about what a pain in the ass motherhood is, nonetheless! She spent most of the season pregnant, but both the real-life and on-screen pregnancies ended tragically. Unfortunately, Sagal’s child was stillborn after the actress delivered six weeks prematurely. After this, she missed some episodes that season and her pregnancy was written off as a “dream.” This is one example where including the pregnancy in the show proved to be a risky venture, and ended quite sadly.
6. Ginnifer Goodwin, Once Upon a Time
This is definitely a unique pregnancy considering the actress was pregnant on the TV show and in real life by the same guy! Ginnifer and her co-star/real-life love Josh Dallas were expecting at the exact same time as their characters. The two parents now happily have another child together too, continuing their storybook romance!
5. Jenna Fischer, The Office
This was one hell of a coincidence! When Fischer found out she was pregnant with her first child, she wondered how it would be handled in the show. Before she could even question it too much, she found out they had an episode coming up where her character finds out she’s pregnant, as well. What’re the odds! It was the second kid for everyone’s fave sitcom couple and we love anything that has to do with Jim and Pam!
4. Candice King, The Vampire Diaries
When Candice found out she was pregnant with her first kid, it put the show in a bit of a pickle. How is an immortal vampire who can’t actually get pregnant or really change physically going to go through this?! Well, they did it with a wild plot twist. I guess that’s kind of the great thing about being on a supernatural TV show – anything can happen! King’s character Caroline finds out she is pregnant with her former teacher’s twins after his wife was killed at the altar and the children were magically transported to a nearby womb – her own. Did you get all that? It made for a crazy storyline and allowed the actress to keep filming after she started showing. Win-win!
3. Alyson Hannigan, How I Met Your Mother
The first time Hannigan was pregnant while on her hit sitcom, the show did everything they could to hide the pregnancy. The second time around, they embraced it since her character, Lily and her husband, Marshall (Jason Segal) were finally ready for a baby of their own. It worked out perfectly as the two pregnancies coincided and Hannigan didn’t have to worry about hiding that belly a second time! That said, the first time they did it was pretty funny.
2. Sarah Drew, Grey’s Anatomy
When Sarah found out she was pregnant, she ended up pitching an emotional storyline to Shonda Rhimes based on her experience with pregnancy. The storyline sees her character, April, and her on-screen beau losing their baby due to a birth defect and having to deal with issues of faith in the aftermath of such tragedy. She pitched the story based on a similar scenario her mother had told her had happened to a family friend. Luckily, Sarah’s baby was born completely healthy — and arrived only ten hours after she shot her fake labor scene!
1. Lisa Kudrow, Friends
Lisa Kudrow’s real-life pregnancy led to one of the craziest storylines in the history of Friends – and there were some weird ones. Her character, Phoebe, found herself pregnant, too – but by her brother’s baby. (Thanks to artificial insemination, of course, not actual incest!) And it wasn’t just one child growing inside of her — it was three! Crazy, right? Since Kudrow wasn’t having triplets like her character was, she did have to use a fair amount of padding to make her belly look even more massive. The storyline was appropriately zany and ensured that Phoebe wouldn’t have three kids to take care of at the end of it since they’d go to her brother and his wife. That’s a perfect TV pregnancy!