Emma Atkins, who plays troublemaker Charity Dingle in Emmerdale, has announced that she will be leaving the soap for a year because she is pregnant with her first child.
The 39-year-old actress, who has played foxy villain Charity in the show since 2000, is expecting a baby with her businessman partner.
Her character, now Charity Macey (and formerly Tate and Sharma, lest we forget), won't be departing from the dales in such happy circumstances, however. As fans of the show will know, while Emma is welcoming her new arrival, her on-screen alter ego will be in prison.
In an hour-long episode screened last night (20 January), viewers saw scheming Charity finally get her comeuppance, sentenced to two years for perverting the course of justice after surprise witness Rachel Breckle scuppered her plans to get off scot free.
In a video for the ITV website, Emma, who previously left the soap in 2005 and returned in 2009, explained the exciting reasons for her absence this time round.
Telling fans she expected to stay off screens for 'about a year', she spoke of her 'mixture of emotions as she prepared to depart the ITV soap, if only temporarily.
The feeling is clearly mutual as co-star and on-screen rellie Charley Webb took to Twitter to congratulate Emma on her news.
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!
- Charley Webb (@MissCharleyWebb) January 20, 2015
"Finally - everyone knows Emma is leaving to have a baby. Can't wait to be an 'Aunty' again," wrote the actress, who plays Debbie Dingle. "Emmerdale will miss 'Charity' but she'll be back!"
Back in 2013, Emma told the Sun that she would 'love' to start a family. "If I'm not meant to have a baby, I'm not meant to have a baby," she said. "But people still have them in their forties, so there is no major rush." It looks like the wait is over!