"Captain, lieutenant, can you please help Natalie with her little habit of moving behind chest-concealing objects every time I turn to talk to her directly?"
When an actress gets pregnant, this not-usually-planned-for event is usually written into the show as the character getting pregnant. However, sometimes the writers decide not to include the pregnancy, perhaps because there's just no way in hell it can be written in convincingly, it doesn't fit with the storyline, or perhaps it's just that Status Quo Is God. In this case, the camera crews commonly resort to various tricks, all of which are almost always ineffective, to avoid the actress' bump being noticed, such as:
The actress wears lots of loose, baggy clothes to conceal the hump.
The sudden, unprecedented wearing of heavy overcoats etc. which are much too big for her, with absolutely no explanation— particularly for a character who normally wears form-fitting clothes.
The use of Scenery Censors: for example, she carries lots of paper bags in front of her belly, or stands (as pictured above) behind chairs, countertops, or other objects that block the view of her below her midsection.
She sits down a lot; in the late stages of pregnancy, this often entails some sort of blanket over herself to hide the bump. Such "supine shots" are filmed for prolonged periods, with no direct views of her ever actively getting up or sitting down.
The cameramen just make sure to never get shots below their upper chest.
The camera shoots her from far away if they need full body shots.
She suddenly wears black. Lots and lots of black... without any evidence of a funeral or a Matrix in sight. note Black helps hide the shadow that the actress' suddenly much larger stomach casts, as well as its shape. The Matrix reference is because the main characters in The Matrix trilogy wear entirely black leather clothing during their scenes set inside the Matrix.
The excessive use of body-doubles for all revealing body-shots with the face conspicuously obscured — after which the camera will flash conveniently back to the actress with her face showing and body obscured. (Naturally, this sad trick only makes the attempt at deception more obvious).
Worst of all, is the attempt of wearing high heels etc. to make her look more height-weight proportionate; this succeeds only in making her appear even more like "the Elephant in the Room" by towering over all else around her with her increased size. Even worse, when she walks, she typically becomes a lumbering hulk, lurching and teetering around on the heels like Frankenstein's Monster due to her increased height and decreased balance.
Alternatively, the character might just be written to put on a lot of weight, due to a sudden "eating binge" or whatever (see "Frasier" below). Note that this trope does not include cases where the actress' pregnancy is written into the show - that's Written-In Infirmity. Nor should it be confused with a character hiding her pregnancy in-story, which is My Secret Pregnancy.
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The Big Steal took extra long to film because Robert Mitchum had a stint in jail for marijuana possession in the middle of production. His pregnant co-star, Jane Greer, is visibly thicker in the waist in the last scenes shot while Mitchum himself is thinner due to life on a prison farm.
In the original British version of Death at a Funeral, Keeley Hawes underwent various stages of pregnancy throughout filming. The last scene in the film with her has her sit down on a sofa where her in-film (and real-life) husband is lying down, whereupon he quickly hides her belly by putting his legs across her lap.
In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Helena Bonham-Carter filmed her earliest scene as Bellatrix Lestrange while pregnant, where her bump was very poorly hidden by a huge leather belt. It was so blatant that after watching the movie, you probably left the theater asking yourself, "Does Voldemort really have mad game with the bitches?"
In the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, Susannah Harker (who played Jane Bingley) was pregnant with her first child during filming. However, the cut of the dresses and the period fashions made this much easier to obscure than in many other productions, not to mention the fact that a good portions of the scenes she's in involve her sitting down anyway.
Claudia Black was very obviously pregnant by the time filming began on the movie Stargate Continuum, and there was no way to convincingly hide it even in the opening scene, where she's carrying a big sci-fi gun and wearing a loose camouflage fatigue jacket. Similarly to her role in Stargate SG-1 Season 9, she vanished (literally, due to Ba'al's temporal manipulations, then showed up again in the altered time line as the System Lord Qetesh, wearing a too-large dress and usually having the direct line of sight to her stomach blocked by different objects or shooting angles.
Veronica Lake was pregnant at the start of the filming of Sullivans Travels, but her character wasn't. Fortunately, as she was playing a hobo, she could convincingly wear loose, baggy clothes. The rest of the time, the greatest costume designer in Hollywood was hard at work making her look completely innocuous.
The Swinging Cheerleaders a 70s exploitation comedy, averted this. Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith neglected to tell anybody involved with the production that she was five months pregnant. Never mind that her part called for several topless scenes, and that her character was a virgin.
Averted in Fido. Carrie-Anne Moss's real life pregnancy was written into the film, where her character mentions being pregnant, and the husband commenting that he can't afford to pay for another funeral.
In Legally Blonde 2, they filmed an introductory scene some time after the main shooting was completed. At that point Reese Witherspoon was obviously pregnant, so the scene consists of women sitting and talking, shot only from the chest up. It's pretty awkward and obvious.
About midway through the film production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita, Madonna discovered that she was pregnant with her first child. The film directors went to great lengths to cover up the possibility of her "Eva Peron" getting pregnant, even if it meant removing some scenes of her being carried out of the church for fear she might slip.
In the François TruffautMovie About A Movie, Day for Night, they are filming a scene where the woman who is the secretary of one of the main characters, gets out of a pool to take a letter for him. Then they discover she's just barely pregnant, and by the time she comes back in six weeks for the main part of her scenes, she will be obviously several months pregnant. They have to figure out a way to cover the issue, but they can't simply have her seen as pregnant as it will complicate the story, the audience will think her boss knocked her up.
Shirley Jones was pregnant during production of The Music Man and, it being the 1960's and she was unmarried, wanted to keep it a secret. So she worked with a very tight group of costumers to keep it hidden even from the rest of the production. By the end it had become an open secret, she even recalled after a kissing scene with Robert Preston he was very perplexed at the baby bump. In an interview, it is pointed out that if you look very closely during certain scenes, you can see the bump.
Halle Berry's role as Storm in X-Men: Days of Future Past had to be rewritten following an unexpected pregnancy. Though they were able to finish shooting while Berry could still fit her costume (though only by a week or so), all of Storm's flight and hand-to-hand combat scenes had to be cut from the script.
Some of the above examples can be found here, an amusing list of suggestions for the crew on how to handle it.
In But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, Lorelei abandons her movie career at expectant motherhood, alluding to the example of a movie actress who was discovered to be pregnant halfway through filming, which got to the point where her scenes had to be filmed "showing nothing but her head sticking up over the top of a bush or looking out of a window."
A rare in-universe example is featured in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. One of the "rules" that Oskar's grandparents made was to never have children, but his grandmother felt she was losing him, so she made a pregnancy happen anyway and hid it with baggy clothing and pillows. Still didn't stop him from leaving.
Rebekah in the book Angel Seekers of the Samaria series until she was forced to try on her wedding dress.
Live Action TV
The writers of All My Children decided not to write in Sydney Penny's pregnancy, instead using only tight shots of Penny's face. This resulted in a very funny moment for her and Justin Bruening, when their two characters were arguing over whether to have a baby, while Penny was 8-1/2 months pregnant.
Played with in Angel. Charisma Carpenter's pregnancy was (poorly) hidden, but her character's secret pregnancy became a plot twist. One she eventually revealed to the other characters by wearing an Obviously Evil black evening gown.
Tamsin Greig in Black Books, who is hidden not just by the normal techniques, including lots of long scarves, but also because it looks like she's constantly smoking and drinking though the entire series.
Holly Marie Combs in Charmed. The most blatant effort to hide her belly was the "headless horseman" episode. They wrote her first one in, but her second pregnancy was hidden during season eight to preserve the timeline they had been setting up.
During the third season of Cheers, both Rhea Perlman (Carla) and Shelley Long (Diane) became pregnant; Perlman's pregnancy was written into the script (as the result of a fling with Frasier's mentor, Dr. Bennett Ludlow), whereas Long was mostly shot from the neck up or behind the bar.
An actress on Coronation Street playing a post-op transsexual became pregnant; she started by sitting down a lot, and later went on holiday to keep things from getting too obvious.
When Phylicia Rashad of The Cosby Show got pregnant, she had to stand/sit with various household objects in front of her belly. One scene had her sitting down behind a gigantic teddy bear, strange as that may sound. Some episodes excluded Clair entirely, but she was mentioned to be working late or out of town. They also cut a hole out in Cliff/Clair's bed so that when they were in it, Rashad's stomach wasn't elevated.
This led to a hilarious behind the scenes extra in which Bill Cosby himself said that if Phylicia Rashad's belly got any bigger, they would have to park the Huxtable's car in the living room just so they could hide her stomach behind it.
When AJ Cook got pregnant toward the end of the third season of Criminal Minds, a very token effort was made to do this - interestingly, though, it wasn't to pretend that Cook/JJ wasn't pregnant at all, but just to vaguely cover the fact that due to Real Life Writes the Plot factors in other areas, JJ's pregnancy was supposed to start a bit later than AJ's ended up happening.
When CSI: NY actress Anna Belknap, who plays Lindsay Monroe, became pregnant, they used the close-up method with varying success. The second time they just wrote it into the storyline, thankfully.
Dallas Victoria Principal was only shown either conspicuously absent, or sitting down with a table conveniently in front of her for much of the season, while she was filmed from the chest up.
Desperate Housewives got very creative with this, using everything from giant gingerbread castles to Mrs. McClusky's head to hide Marcia Cross's pregnancy. But when the plot really could not get away with this, they just called in a stunt double. One episode required Bree to climb a ladder, hiding the other actress's face. And when Marcia Cross returned (Bree and her family were written off the show for a few months to accommodate her maternity leave) they wrote Bree as faking a pregnancy!
This is why Zoe, in the Doctor Who 20th anniversary special "The Five Doctors", specifically a vision of her that's tricking the Doctor, is wearing a layer of bubblewrap over her clothes.
Near the middle of Season 5 of The Drew Carey Show, Christa Miller suddenly started sitting/lying down a lot while covered up, or wearing baggy and/or black clothing that she never wore previously. Her pregnancy couldn't be written into the script because her character was just starting her romance with Drew. However, she did show up pregnant as a "gag" in Episode 19, "What's Wrong with this Episode III" since the character wasn't supposed to be pregnant. (Ryan Stiles also showed up pregnant as "Lewis—" except that Christa Miller's wasn't simply a basketball under her shirt, as her widened overall girth showed even from behind).
Patricia Heaton spent some seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond very visibly pregnant when Debra certainly wouldn't be; they mostly went the baggy clothes route, which was...somewhat weird when the focus of the episode was Raymond moping about how he's not attractive enough for Debra, considering she looks like she's smuggling a basketball under a very loose shirt.
Jane Leeves got pregnant late in Frasier's run, and it was written as Daphne becoming fat due to compulsive eating, complete with a Fat Suit; and she left the series for Jane Leeves to have the baby, by having Daphne going away to a spa in order to lose the weight. (With the in-joke that Niles went to see her there, and she had "just lost 9 pounds, 12 ounces".) In the final season, Leeves' second pregnancy was merely incorporated into the storyline.
Friends: Courteney Cox's pregnancy in the last few episodes, Monica's sterility being an important plot thread at that point.
Helen Baxendale's pregnancy, along with her country of residence being England, meant that Emily was written out earlier than the writers had originally intended and mostly appeared in voiceover and under bedsheets.
General Hospital used this where actress Jacklyn Zeman got pregnant. It couldn't be written in because her character Bobbie had had a hysterectomy.
Kelly Rutherford was pregnant during the second season of Gossip Girl. At first they succeeded pretty well in hiding it, but towards the end they got really sloppy.
Chyler Leigh's pregnancy in season five of Grey's Anatomy was hidden in the classic manner. There was also one episode having her constantly eating because Mark and Derek were fighting. Ellen Pompeo's pregnancy during season six was hidden by having her character donate part of her liver to her father. Jessica Capshaw's pregnancy during season seven will also be hidden, while Sarah Drew and Jessica Capshaw's third pregnancy aren't being written in during season eight.
This was elevated into an art form in How I Met Your Mother, as both Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders became pregnant at various points throughout the show. This resulted in many scenes of sitting down, baggy clothing, strategic covering of the stomach area (including Lily suddenly incorporating guitar-playing into her teaching methods), sudden speed-eating talents (with the gag being the reveal of a Balloon Belly after stuffing her face) and- in the most blatant but amusing example- Lily inexplicably disappearing for four weeks after Barney told her an incredibly dirty joke.
However, when Alyson got pregnant again in season seven, her character was already pregnant, so there was no need to hide it. Lily actually gave birth in the second-to-last episode of the season, while Alyson still hadn't. The season finale she went back to carrying a (rather large) diaper bag in front of her. It could be explained in-show as post-baby weight.
Barbara Eden wore copious veils in the earliest episodes of I Dream of Jeannie to conceal her baby bump, and the results were very effective.
Lucille Ball was six months pregnant with Lucie Arnaz when she shot the pilot for I Love Lucy , resulting in vastly oversized costumes. As the pilot was not created for television broadcast, the issue hardly mattered.
Averted with her second pregnancy: the Moral Guardians wanted her to do this, as pregnancy was a taboo subject in media at the time, but she refused, and the episode where Lucy gives birth wound up setting a new Nielson record. Since the word 'pregnant' could not be used on TV, the show coined (or at least popularized) the term 'expecting'.
Its Always Sunnyin Philadelphia averted this when Kaitlin Olsen became pregnant. It was written into the series with an entire episode devoted to the Gang trying to find out the identity of the father, they never find out but Dee knows and she's not telling. Turns out she was carrying the baby for a post-op transgender woman.
However; zig-zagged because a couple of episodes had used the classic tricks of shooting her at an angle, putting something in front of her, or only having her visible from the chest up in certain shots. You can especially see this in the swimming pool episode.
When JAG actress Catherine Bell became pregnant in season 8, her character Lt. Colonel Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie was in-universe temporarily assigned to the Navy-Marine Corps Judiciary, which to allow her to sit behind a big bench. (Navy-Marine Corps judges don't wear robes.)
Kate And Allie put Kate in a hospital bed with a foot injury. A later episode was told largely in flashback, during the time when Kate was pregnant with her daughter Emma.
By Season 8 of The King of Queens, Leah Remini, whose extremely-slim figure was shown center-screen as a ratings-device for most of the series, had ballooned up to almost twice her original weight due to her season 6 pregnancy (shortsightedly, this was written out of the script by the Hollywoood sitcom-wizards who gave Carrie a miscarriage before she even started gaining weight and resorted to the standard tricks throughout the sixth season). Even more absurdly, her blimping-out is never noticed or mentioned by anyone in the series, despite that 1) the original script made an entire episode-joke about how she had a family history of women gaining a lot of weight after age 30, and 2) the entire series was more or less a non-stop "running fat-joke" about Kevin James's weight-condition.
Kathryn Erbe got a variation of this in Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Much like the example below with Nana Visitor in Star Trek (which predated the Criminal Intent example by several years), Erbe's character served as a surrogate mother for her sister, since the character was not involved with anyone on the show.
When Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit got pregnant, Olivia Benson held large folders in front of her, wore thick, heavy winter coats, and eventually temporarily left town on an undercover assignment for the FBI. At one point she held a coat in front of her while wearing a thick jacket. The overcoat in question wouldn't have been able to fit over the jacket she was wearing.
The Lawrence Welk Show did this whenever a member of the cast became pregnant, which was quite often.
When Gina Bellman of Leverage was pregnant, Sophie's stomach was hidden (in the same episode!) by being in a coffin, oh, and HOLDING A BOMB TO HER STOMACH. At the end of the episode, she goes on a journey to "find herself"; the next episode, she's only present in phone calls from the main team, usually shot from the chest up behind a bar or in the back seat of a cab.
In the second season of Life, Sarah Shahi's pregnancy was utilized very well to further the story arc: Dani Reese goes off to interview for a job in the FBI, only to be used as a pawn by people in the conspiracy. This allows for the occasional chest-up shot of her while the rest of the cast is solving the mystery of the week.
Katey Segal became pregnant twice during the run of Married... with Children, the first time in season 6, Peg actually was pregnant, it stayed for half a season, then it was retconned into a dream after she miscarried in real life, later on in season 9 or 10 during her second pregnancy her stomach was either obscured by an object or not always shown on screen.
Monk ran into this trope when Traylor Howard became pregnant prior to the filming of season 5. According to this article◊, Traylor confessed to her pregnancy in the spring, prior to the start of season 5 production.
At first, the trope was averted. As the article reads, for the first eight episodes of season 5, from "Mr. Monk and the Actor" through "Mr. Monk Goes to a Rock Concert," plus the Christmas special "Mr. Monk Meets His Dad," Traylor's pregnancy was only just starting to show, as she was in her first trimester. It does appear in these first episodes that she has a slightly thicker chest than normal.
When Traylor and the cast returned in August 2006 to begin shooting the six episodes at the end of the season, from "Mr. Monk and the Leper" to "Mr. Monk Goes to the Hospital", the trope was played straight. Hence, the need for the usual bag of camera tricks: she was usually filmed chest up in the usual way, lower section hidden by objects, heavy trenchcoats, bags in front of her. An example is the newspaper article's photo, which is from "Mr. Monk and the Really, Really Dead Guy" and shows Monk, Natalie and Captain Stottlemeyer looking at Jean Garnett's body in the morgue. Natalie's lower half is concealed by the body and the table.
"Mr. Monk is On the Air" aired as part of the second half of season 5, but it does not get played straight there because it was actually supposed to air as part of the first half of the season, produced before Traylor's pregnancy showed (This deduced from A) Natalie's outfits, B) Natalie is driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee like she drives in the first eight episodes, when the previous three episodes aired prior to "Mr. Monk is on the Air" had her driving a new Buick Lucerne, and C) when Monk and Natalie first go to Max Hudson's house, they look a calendar flipped to July 2006, which sets the episode in late August of that year, while "Mr. Monk is At Your Service", the previous episode, is set in Spring 2007).
Written-In Infirmity: In "Mr. Monk Is At Your Service," Natalie is uncomfortable being around an old, obsessive boyfriend (played by Sean Astin of all people!) who stalked her in high school. To ward off his advances, she stuffs a pillow under her shirt so he'll think she's pregnant. The result was that Traylor could be shot normally during her scenes in the second half of the episode. She still wore loose-fitting clothes to make it work easily. Besides, they needed to do that so that some scenes where Natalie is taken into the woods could be shot without creative camera positioning.
Another example where it is possible that Traylor's pregnancy affected an episode's writing is "Mr. Monk Visits a Farm," when Randy suspects foul play in his uncle Harvey Disher's death and invites Monk up to investigate. Due to the number of outdoor scenes, it would be hard to find something convincing to obscure Traylor's chest during these scenes. So instead, Natalie stays home, only getting one scene (where Monk is getting the call from Randy), and Monk travels to the farm by himself on a Greyhound bus.
Once averted: in all of Kendra Frank's scenes in "Mr. Monk Goes to a Rock Concert," Tamara Feldman carries a leather jacket that belonged to the murder victim, Kendra's boyfriend Stork Murray, over her left arm. In most scenes, the camera angles and the way she carries it around her waist, not to mention that she's wearing entirely black clothing (black hair, black t-shirt, black leather jacket, black pants, black knee-length boots), might lead you to believe this trope is in effect. However, this might just be a habitual thing for Kendra, as Tamara wasn't pregnant.
Parodied on 30 Rock. In-universe, Avery is trying to hide her pregnancy from her superiors. Cue her carrying around ridiculously oversized objects, and coaxing a friend into "wizard robes" fashionable.
This may have been lampshade hanging for Tina Fey's own pregnancy which was becoming visible at that time.
The Nanny provided a former page image of Lauren Lane, who played C.C Babcock. (Out of character as she's portrayed as being hopeless at attracting men.) They even did some Lampshade Hanging with this one by having her carry a poster with "Baby" on it in front of her, and by making references to the Seinfeld example.
They also hid both of Rachel Chagall's pregnancies. Her character Val was even more hopeless at attracting men, so they were forced to hide them as well. Hers was especially noticeable in the final season because they were trying to hide her (real) pregnancy while she was standing beside Fran Drescher in the middle of a (fake) pregnancy.
Newhart had Julia Duffy carry around a pillow for half a season.
In NUMB3RS, while Diane Farr was pregnant, FBI Agent Megan Reeves was mostly limited to desk jobs.
In the second half of the fourth season of The Office, Angela Martin was strictly confined to her workspace behind a chest height wall due to her pregnancy.
When Amy Poehler became pregnant for the second time during Parks and Recreation, the producers decided to just write and film as many episodes as possible before she had to go on maternity leave, rather than taking a hiatus between the second and third seasons. This resulted in increasing amounts of bump-camouflaging ruffled blouses and creative clipboard and desk placement during the first six episodes of season three. Unfortunately, NBC decided to push back the season première to January of 2011, rather than the expected September of 2010 première date, rendering the creative team's efforts unnecessary.
Olivia Colman in Series 4 of Peep Show was carefully filmed to avoid revealing that she was pregnant.
Averted, however, in the second series of That Mitchell and Webb Look, filmed around the same time, in which she appears heavily pregnant throughout. Kind of helps that it's a sketch show, however.
This happened to Prison Break's only actress at the time, Sarah Wayne Callies. Since most of the pregnancy coincided with the production hiatus between seasons 2 and 3, pregnancy hiding was only needed at the end of season 2, hence her not going to Panama and instead sitting behind a big desk in a courtroom for the last few episodes. The birth and first few weeks of motherhood coincided with the first six or so episodes of season 3, so the plot was broken with Callies' character being MIA for that time, but some Executive Meddling ended up with her character being killed off instead. But she got better in time for season 4.
A curious aversion in Property Ladder; In the British version Sarah Beeny practically became a walking continuity error due to her pregnancy. Since the nature of the show involves following the progress people are making in renovating homes over an extended period of time, the inserted segments involving Beeny would frequently shift between not-pregnant and heavily pregnant over several episodes (or, in certain extreme cases, the same episode) depending on when they were filmed, with little apparent attempt on the part of the producers to hide or cover this up. Then again, it's real life and as noted occurs over an extended period of time, so they probably weren't that bothered about it.
In Rizzoli & Isles, Sasha Alexander's second pregnancy wasn't written in. The character wore very tight clothing, so it was obvious to the viewers she was pregnant towards the end of the first season.
Roseannetried to do this with Laurie Metcalf's pregnancy. They started with loose clothing that got larger and larger and then resorted to putting things in front of her(the most memorable moment being when Jackie sits in the bathtub with a heavy quilt over her when she, Dan and Roseanne get high on twenty year old pot). However, Metcalf ended up with one of the biggest baby bumps ever and they were forced to write in a one night stand conception so they didn't have to remove her from the rest of the season.
Billie Piper was pregnant during the filming of the second series of The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. Obviously a pregnancy couldn't be written in, so a body double was used for nude scenes and Belle began wearing baggy, unflattering dresses. It becomes quite intrusive when you know about it, as sex scenes involve tight close-ups on her face, then shots of her body from the shoulders down.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus became pregnant twice during the course of the run of Seinfeld. The first time happened during the hiatus between seasons 3 and 4, so it wasn't as big a problem; the actress was absent from the first two shows of season 4 and made very brief appearances in the next two (Elaine was said to be vacationing in Europe with her shrink), then was back to work full-time by show 5. The second pregnancy, however, occurred during the middle of season 8. The producers resorted to the full bag of tricks to mask it, including baggy clothing, shooting her from behind counters, and having the actress hold bags or pillows - and one time, Mickey (a Little Person friend of Kramer's) - in front of herself a lot. Because Elaine usually wore conservative clothing to start with, hiding it was not difficult.
In Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker was pregnant several times in mid-season, which the producers tried to cover up using body-doubles, and otherwise using suddenly baggy clothes and avoidance-shots of her normally lean body.
In the series finale of Six Feet Under, Brenda has just given birth to Willa, but Rachel Griffiths was still pregnant. She carried a very large purse and wore baggy clothes.
Jessica Hynes in Spaced. Daisy Steiner's tomboyish outfits helped to conceal her pregnancy, along with cruel comments from Daisy's "friend" Twist.
This happened four times to three different actresses on Stargate SG-1. At the beginning of season nine, Amanda Tapping's pregnancy was concealed by having Samantha Carter transferred temporarily to the R&D base at Area51. Video communication involving her only showed her body from the shoulders up. Claudia Black was brought in as Vala for the beginning of the season to be the token female until Tapping returned, but she got pregnant partway through season 9. The writers dealt with this by shipping her off to the Ori's home galaxy for most of the year and then having her be pregnant with a Dark Messiah when she came back. Then Lexa Doig, who played Dr. Carolyn Lam, also became pregnant. Since she only held a minor supporting role, her character completely vanished from the show without explanation. Then, Black got pregnant with her second child before filming started on the post-series film Continuum, but since the role of Qetesh was an important part of the story, the crew had to resort to various methods of disguising the fact that she was in her second trimester, from having her wear an oversized camo jacket and carry a huge gun, to being filmed from angles that minimized the profile of her stomach.
For the first half of season 4 of Stargate Atlantis, they hid Rachel Luttrell's pregnancy (made more difficult by the fact that episodes were filmed out of order.) They then wrote it into the show but the character didn't tell anyone so the pregnancy was no longer being kept hidden from the audience, but it was a secret in universe. Finally, when she reveals her pregnancy, she goes almost immediately to hugely showing, but that's just because she was already mostly there.
In Sanctuary, they did a pretty good job of hiding Pascale Hutton's (Abby) pregnancy as she was six months pregnant during the early days of the character's relationship with Will. Subverted later in the season when they did an All Just a Dream episode that included a pregnant Abby (married to Will.)
When Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher) got pregnant in real life during Star Trek: The Next Generation, her character had to go through this, with lots of close-ups or sitting down shots. It also helps that the character's uniform had always included a voluminous lab coat, so it was only noticeable if you were really looking.
McFadden learned she was pregnant shortly after filming one of Crusher's best episodes, "Remember Me," and doing her own (strenuous) stunts.
To complicate matters further, one of the most intensively Crusher-centered episodes of the series, "The Host", was made while her pregnancy was quite advanced. While it may seem relatively simple, since this episode involves a romance with a lot of on-screen physical contact, it's actually quite challenging to do while not showing her pregnancy. The writer, interviewed later, said it made the episode even better, saying that there is a "glow" to women in love and certainly a "glow" on pregnant women.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine figured out a...let's say creative way of avoiding this trope with Nana Visitor's pregnancy by turning Major Kira into an emergency surrogate mother for the O'Briens (Amusingly, the father of Visitor's child was costar Alexander Siddig, who played Dr. Bashir).
Likewise, Roxanne Dawson (Lt. Torres) of Star Trek: Voyager . The writers considered writing her pregnancy into the plot, but decided against it, resulting in a long period in which her character was never shown from the chest down and the big coat trick (except for a two-part episode set in the holodeck where the character was forced by aliens who had taken over the ship into portraying a pregnant woman). Amusingly enough, her character later became pregnant. Also due to her pregnancy there was only one Torres-focused episode in the whole season.
Once the mind control devices were deactivated, but before the holodeck effects were overridden, there's an amusing bit where both Tom Paris and Torres comment on the intense realism of the 'simulated' pregnancy (including that it kicks).
The large coat actually tipped off the savvy viewer that she was pregnant as the coat was modelled after the style of top worn by pregnant women in the US Army. Thus it was pretty obvious when and for how long she was pregnant.
Cynthia Watros was pregnant with twins during the second season of Titus, and also happened to have broken her leg. So the writers integrated the broken leg into the narrative (chasing after a burglar and fell hard) and had her in a wheelchair (usually with her purse on her lap) for several episodes.
Roma Downey's pregnancy couldn't be written into Touched by an Angel for obvious reasons. They went the standard baggy clothes, chest and up shots and lots of hiding behind plants/chairs/Andrew.
In Two and a Half Men, one of Charlie's former-girlfriends is shown as supposedly non-pregnant, despite that she's obviously at 8 months, draped utterly non-convincingly in a shawl which conceals nothing— particularly since her remaining clothing is skimpy at best, looking like she's smuggling a beach-ball. Later in the next season, she's shown at a much more modest weight— and as the new mother of a newborn infant which was written into the script, no less (but not because her character was supposed to be pregnant in her last appearance).
Mary McCormack was pregnant when she was joined the cast of The West Wing. Her pregnancy was not written into that show. But her later pregnancy when she was the lead character of In Plain Sight was written in.
In The X-Files, Scully wore a lot of trench-coats and stood behind a lot of desks while Gillian Anderson was pregnant. Then she got abducted by aliens while Gillian Anderson was giving birth (i.e. she was absent from that episode). During this time there were a few shots of her being examined aboard the alien ship, including one where it looked like the aliens were pumping her belly full of air. Scully spent the next episode in a coma; by the next episode she was walking and talking again.
Word of God confirms that the Myth Arc was never intended, despite hints of alien conspiracies early in the series. It also confirms that Anderson's pregnancy was what jump-started the whole thing, since they had to explain away her absence as well as give development to then-minor characters like Director Skinner and the Cigarette Smoking Man, who was literally "an extra leaning on a shelf."
Rommie's body being destroyed and the Suspiciously Similar Substitute of Doyle as BadassRobot Girl during season 5 of Andromeda was due to Doig's pregnancy. During her pregnancy, she only appeared in chest up shots or as a disembodied head. Her being rebuilt after the destruction also served to explain the changes to Doig's body which were caused by the pregnancy.
Merlin did it with Emilia Fox, but not extremely well in the opinion of some fans. To elaborate, the giant grey silk cloak wasn't so bad, and neither was her newfound habit of standing behind various bits of furniture, but one scene has her standing before a kneeling King Uther - and it's his head that's being used to conceal her baby bump. It doesn't work at all.
Subverted in the famous Brady episode of Day By Day where Maureen McCormick played her Marcia Brady character while very obviously in late pregnancy and no one mentioned that anything was different.
The actress who plays Kristen in Wilfred was pretty darn preggers throughout season 1.
The Big Bang Theory: While not a pregnancy, many of the same tricks were used when Kaley Cuoco broke her leg in a horse riding mishap. She was always shown standing or sitting in the same place, always above the knee and they used a body double for a scene where she walks past some characters in the background.
This was also done when Mayim Bialik injured her hand in a car accident.
This is also not a pregnancy, but on The Middle, Brick (Atticus Shaffer) is almost never shown walking by himself a certain distance from the camera because Shaffer has Type IV Ostogenesis Imperfecta (aka brittle bone disease), which causes him to have a noticeable limp.
January Jones was pregnant for the filming of season 5 of Mad Men and, instead of a pregnancy storyline or the above mentioned deflection tactics, the writers wrote in a fat story line, complete with fat suit and body doubles.
This was attempted with Debra Messing in Will and Grace by giving her baggy clothes. It's still pretty noticeable at times.
Grey's Anatomy had Meredith stay in bed for weeks to recover from surgery, as her estranged alcoholic father needed a liver transplant, to hide Pompeo's pregnancy.
Averted by Wheel of Fortune. There was no feasible way to conceal Vanna White's two pregnancies, especially not with all the walking back and forth she does at the puzzle board. So she just wore maternity outfits throughout.
When Mary Lynn Rakskub was pregnant during the second half of 24's seventh season (after production resumed from the events of the 2007-2008 Writers' Guild Strike), Chloe had to be Out of Focus for the rest of the season, several episodes having her just sitting behind a desk or being completely MIA.
Leigh-Allyn Baker's pregnancy came at an extremely bad time for Good Luck Charlie: It came almost immediately after her character gave birth to another little Duncan, meaning there was no chance to do another pregnancy arc. The early episodes after the birth justified it as her still trying to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight.
The Mentalist put Grace (Amanda Righetti) on a hackers' school bus towards the end of season 4. When The Bus Came Back in season 5, she spent an episode in exceptionally baggy clothes and hiding behind her desk - not that this helped conceal the pregnancy weight/water retention in her face, and of course the observant viewer caught several glimpses of her very round belly when she had to stand up and walk (or teeter, given her heels and attempts to not lean back like a pregnant woman balancing that extra weight in front). The very next season, Righetti and Owain Yeoman decided to leave the show, with Grace and Wayne getting married. Seems like a missed opportunity.
Glee: After Heather Morris became pregnant, her character Brittany was noticeably absent for a couple episodes. She comes back for the season 4 finale and it is explained that she will no longer be attending McKinley (and therefore why her character will either not be on the show ever again or for... a while). Heather has a noticeable baby bump that was clearly trying to be hidden with some looser clothes.
Really funny as her character Really Gets Around so a pregnancy storyline wouldn't be out of place and she's out of her teens by this point so it wouldn't just be recycling the Teen Pregnancy storyline. The hiding works for a few episodes until the bump is too protruding and she can't really dance anymore, which is one of the main reasons she's on the show, but she still does a one-handed cartwheel whilst pregnant and hugs everyone really tight when the actual storyline written in to excuse her leaving happens in the next episode. This storyline is the real catch: Brittany is The Ditz that Really Gets Around, apparently with Anything That Moves, but instead of writing a perfectly believable pregnancy in they decide to have her given early acceptance to MIT because she's a genius.
Subverted on ER. Although most actresses Real Life pregnancies were written into the show, in at least two cases, the pregnancies still had to be concealed, as the actresses in question were much further along than their characters were.
Julie Bowen (Claire) was pregnant with twins during the pilot episode of Modern Family, thus she always has a laundry basket, blanket, or pillow in front of her stomach.
On NCIS: Los Angeles, Daniella Ruah (Kensi) was pregnant for the first half of the 5th season. This resulted in Kensi being sent on a long-term covert assignment in Afghanistan, for which all the scenes were shot in advance. In a recent episode, the pregnancy was hidden under a flak jacket that Kensi wore in Afghanistan. She was Put on a Bus just in time, as the baby bump was becoming extremely obvious.
Kat Stewart's pregnancy was worked around in Offspring by having her character get stuck in New Zealand due to a volcano-induced ash cloud. Her appearances during those episodes were on the screen of a Skype call. note Her character had an arc in which she tried to get pregnant, and it didn't work out, so it wasn't something that they could work in.
Happens in a particular episode of My Name Is Earl. For the most part, they averted this trope when it came to Jamie Pressley's real-world pregnancy; they wrote it in as Joy agreeing to be a surrogate for her half-sister Liberty. But this episode is an exception, because it's a flashback that explains the origin of Earl Jr. So in the scenes that take place before she becomes pregnant with Earl Jr., Joy is wearing long coats, or sitting with Earl on the couch under a blanket, or wearing a baggy shirt.
Averted in the second half of the third season of Once Upon a Time, Ginnifer Goodwin's pregnancy was introduced with her character, Snow White.
Debra Messing became pregnant during the sixth season of Will and Grace. All the standard tricks were (ineffectually) implemented to conceal her baby bump. Ultimately, Debra had to skip 5 episodes that year, including the season finale, on doctor's orders, resulting in exposition from other characters to explain Grace's conspicuous absence.
In Annie Lennox's "Love Song For A Vampire," she was sitting down and wearing an Empire-style dress throughout.
"Little Bird", released at the same time, has her in nothing but black. However, in this case it is subverted as Lennox is not only standing up at all times but is also often standing in profile to the camera, clearly showing the pregnancy.
Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)" mostly has her in slimming outfits. Plus, there's so much going on in the video (a pair of block parties, one from the 60's and one from the 90's, shown side-by-side) that you don't have time to notice.
Averted by T-Boz from TLC in the video for "Tight to Death," her duet with then-husband Mack-10, where her pregnancy is proudly emphasized. A rather warming scene shows the hardcore rapper putting an ear to his wife's belly (it was only a year later that she divorced him amid threats of domestic violence, but it's still a nice video).
In Madonna's video for "Music," she had to be shot from the front and almost always sitting down. She also commissioned a short action sequence from her favorite animation studio, to replace scenes she couldn't do. However, it was no secret that she was pregnant with her second child at the time, and it added a bit of subtext to the line "I want to dance with my baby".
She was also pregnant while filming the video for "You Must Love Me", the bump was hidden by having her stand behind a piano.
That same pregnancy was proudly displayed in the video for "I'm Every Woman," as the song is a celebration of womanhood.
Within Temptation has Sharon. The video for "Sinéad," where Sharon wears a heavy coat and is only shown from the chest up.
Averted in "Someday" by Britney Spears which is basically a music video to celebrate her pregnancy.
Averted in The Dixie Chicks' video for "Landslide", a Fleetwood Mac cover. Emily Robison was clearly pregnant and not hiding it during the video shoot.
Zig-Zagged by Beyoncé. She appeared at the 2011 MTV Awards wearing a loose-fitting gown and performed in a boxy pantsuit, but cryptically told the audience to "Feel the love growing inside me". At the end of her performance, she took off her jacket to reveal her baby bump to a standing ovation.
Her video for "Countdown" appeared at first to be hiding her pregnancy with an abundance of shots from her front. And then she turned to the side and started rubbing her belly proudly.
Faith Hill's pregnancy is barely visible in the video for her 1998 single "This Kiss".
If you decide to romance Doc as the Jedi Knight in Star Wars: The Old Republic you'll have a chat about having kids. Since Jedi aren't supposed to have families he reckons you wouldn't have a problem hiding a pregnancy under all those robes and when it is born, he'll pretend it's a distant cousin.
In the Backstory, Grandmaster Satele did this when she wound up pregnant (and gave the kid up for adoption). Meaning she's more than a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to the "no attachment, no families" doctrine.
If you romance Aerie throughout "Baldurs Gate 2" and its expansion the end result is pregnancy while you are in still in the middle of adventuring. Rather smartly Aerie mentions that until the later stages it wont be visible under her long flowing robes. The reason why she decides to hide it from the rest of your party is that she has only recently managed to prove herself as competent in their eyes and does not want their pity or insistence that she needs to slow down.
Christa, in The Walking Dead fits this trope. She attempts to hide her pregnancy from the group, probably fearing they'll kick her and Omid out if Lee and Kenny found out. When Lee asks what she and Omid were arguing about, she tells him to mind his own business, when she vomits due to the rotting dog (no one else did, not even Clementine), she tries to pass it off as the extreme smell. Also, Lee and Vernon find a sonogram, and she says, with a tone of familiarity, "It's a sonogram." Eventually, Kenny finds out when he offers her whiskey. She takes the bottle, and looks down at her stomach. Kenny stares at her for a moment, and them she gulps down about half the bottle before handing it back to Kenny. It's implied by his facial expression, he was thinking, "Holy shit! She must be pregnant!"
In Noob, Golgotha has a second avatar in the mage class exclusive to the webseries. The actrice playing her was pregnant during Season 3 and the main difference between Gologtha's usual warrior avatar and her mage is less chainmail and more baggy clothes.
A milder case happend to Saphir in Season 5 before she got a Temporary Substitute (who was the long-term solution), when she was shown using an avatar looking just like Gaea in-game while shots of her player behind the computer showed only her face.