Emma Atkins has confirmed that she is expecting her first child. The heavily pregnant Emmerdale actress made the big reveal on Wednesday, announcing that she is about to go on maternity leave.
Her pregnancy gave script writers the "perfect opportunity" to finally send Emma's vixen character Charity Macey to jail, and on Tuesday night's episode, viewers saw Charity handed a two-year prison sentence for fraud.
"I do have a mixture of emotions going around because obviously I'm leaving for a while," said Emma, 39, in a special video message for ITV.
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Heavily pregnant Emma Atkins has just started her maternity leave
"I am leaving. Probably for about a year because I'm leaving to have a baby which is really exciting," she added.
"I will miss Emmerdale so much but it is a new little journey in my life that I'm taking on now. Argh! I can't wait to come back – hopefully within a year."
This is Emma's first child with her businessman partner Tom, and the pretty actress has managed to keep her pregnancy a secret from almost everyone outside of the Emmerdale group.
Emma Atkins' character on Emmerdale, Charity Macey, has been sent to jail for two years
"No one has guessed she's pregnant so didn't see Charity's prison sentence coming," an insider told The Sun. "Everyone assumed she would get away with it like she has so many times in the past.
"But the fact that Emma is pregnant gave the writers a perfect opportunity to finally punish Charity. She's going to be rotting in jail for at least a year."
Emma herself showed her support for the storyline.
"I think it is only right that Charity is brought to justice and goes to prison for two years," she said. "But, don't worry, I'm sure she'll be out on good behaviour. I would love to think that prison would really change Charity in some respects and teach her a really good lesson."
Emma Atkins said of her storyline: 'I would love to think that prison would really change Charity'
The English Rose, who has also starred in Doctors and Charity, first starred in Emmerdale in 2000 and stayed on for five years. Emma then left but made a dramatic return in 2009.
After her baby news was revealed, fans, who have been speculating that Emma is pregnant, took to Twitter to congratulate the star. "So chuffed for Emma Atkins. One of the nicest, funniest & genuine people you can meet. She will be a great Mummy," posted one user, while another simply wrote: "Knew Emma Atkins was pregnant!!!!"
Emma's co-star Charley Webb, who plays Debbie Dingle, also tweeted: "Finally-everyone knows Emma is leaving to have a baby. Can't wait to be an 'Aunty' again Emmerdale will miss 'Charity' but she'll be back!"