Emmerdale has confirmed a heartbreaking storyline for Laurel and Jai after Laurel learns she is pregnant.
The ITV soap will portray the couple making the very difficult decision to end their pregnancy after a prenatal diagnosis.
When Laurel Thomas (Charlotte Bellamy) and her partner Jai (Chris Bisson) are surprised by news she is pregnant, they look forward to having the baby and cementing their blended family.
However on attending the first scan it’s soon apparent all is not as it should be. The couple will be told their pregnancy isn’t developing as expected and there is the possibility the baby has a chromosomal condition.
On returning home to the village, the drama will capture the couple wrestling with their emotions over what to do and whether to have a CVS (chorionic villus sampling) test to determine chromosomal or genetic disorders in a fetus.
After heartfelt and tearful conversations, Laurel and Jai decide to have the CVS test, and the result they receive tells them the baby has Down’s syndrome.
Forthcoming scenes will depict Laurel and Jai having some very deep emotional conversations before making the very sad decision not to proceed with the pregnancy. Like many women in the UK facing the same painful situation, Laurel has a termination.
The story will continue to run on screen featuring their sense of loss, upset and devastation following the termination of the pregnancy.
ITV said: "Statistics show that annually around 40,000 women will be told there is a chance that their baby is not developing as expected. Most expectant parents will eventually be reassured, but around 5,000 who find out that their baby has a genetic or physical condition make the painful decision to end the pregnancy every year.
"The Emmerdale story team felt it was a story that needed to be told. With the support and guidance of Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC) we endeavour to ensure this story will be sensitively told whilst reflecting the reality many couples face."
Actor Charlotte Bellamy commented: “Terminating a pregnancy is an emotive subject, but I think as a programme what Emmerdale does brilliantly is portray difficult stories that are important to tell. The statistics tell us that a majority of people faced with similar news resulting from a diagnostic test, do take this decision.
"So I hope Laurel and Jai's story will take the audience on the journey of them coming to this conclusion and having some understanding why they do. There are some very powerfully written scenes that I hope will give a fair portrayal of their situation.
"When I embarked on this storyline I was well aware of the responsibility of the subject matter, but the scripts have been so well written and I think the story is told fairly.”
Series Producer Laura Shaw added: "Right from the moment the idea was first mooted for this storyline, we knew it was one that if we went ahead with, it had to be fully researched, which involved us speaking to medical professionals, charities and parents with lived experience.
"Listening to women and men telling us their stories, hearing what brought them to make the difficult decision to terminate their pregnancies, cemented for us that this was a topic rarely shown on soap, but a really important one to highlight.
"Translating what we had learnt into Emmerdale scripts led to what was arguably the most challenging and difficult writing our writing team had ever been tasked with. What we have produced and Charlotte and Chris have both brilliantly brought to life, is some of the most heartbreaking and emotional episodes of Emmerdale viewers will have ever seen.”
Jane Fisher Director of Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC) said: “We have over 30 years’ experience of supporting women and their partners through the painful circumstances of ending a wanted pregnancy after a prenatal diagnosis. Thousands of parents go through this every year, but it is rarely spoken about. This can lead to bereaved parents feeling very isolated in their grief.
"We are really pleased that such a popular drama as Emmerdale is tackling this story in such an empathetic and thoughtful way. I have been particularly impressed by how they have valued input from us to help make sure it is as true as possible to the complex reality for couples. It won’t make for easy viewing but will do much to break the silence around this sensitive topic.”