Call the Midwife Wiki

Maureen Gadsby was a single mother with severe antenatal nausea who appeared in Series 4, Episode 8. She is portrayed by Lucy Phelps.


Maureen's husband, Ted, was arrested for burglary sometime before the episode, leaving her and their young son, Neil, alone. Ted was sentenced to three years and Maureen later found out she was pregnant again. Not wanting gossip floating around about her, Maureen told the community that her husband was out at sea.

At the start of the episode, Maureen is shown waiting in the clinic with her toddler to be seen by a nurse. An old friend, Carole, greets her, and Maureen explains that she's pregnant again and that her husband is thrilled. Carole then remarks that there will be a pill out soon that can stop pregnancy from happening. When Shelagh comes to apologize that Dr. Turner has been delayed for another half an hour, Carole says she may as well feed her baby right there and brings out a jar of baby food. She then lists off the ingredients, which proves to be too much for Maureen, who vomits into her handbag. Carole calls for a nurse.

In an examination room with Sister Evangelina and Nurse Gilbert, Maureen explains that the littlest things set her off (like a tea leaf in her tea) and that it's been like this since she first realised she was pregnant. Sister Evangelina says that it's probably a girl. The Sister assures her that it's "mind over matter".

A few days later, at Maureen's booking-in visit with Nurse Gilbert, Maureen is obviously very ill, and the nurse tries to insist that she drink a glass of water with a little sugar mixed in. Maureen refuses, fearing another vomiting episode. As Neil begins to cry from his playpen, the nurse asks if she's been able to feed him, and Maureen replies that she's given him Farley's Rusks, but he doesn't like them dry and she can't face boiling milk. She can't even say the word milk, and when Barbara does, she vomits into the sink.

When Barbara tries to suggest that someone check in each day and help her, Maureen says she and her mother don't speak and that her husband is in jail. Worried, the nurse telephones Dr. Turner's office, but is told by Shelagh that the mother is probably just anxious and for her to come by for an appointment, as the doctor is too busy to come by "just for morning sickness".

Still worried, Nurse Gilbert does some research and finds a council daycare space for Neil, where he can stay for the day and allow Maureen to get some rest, and hopefully alleviate her illness. However, the next day when Nurse Gilbert bikes to Maureen's flat, she finds Maureen collapsed on the floor. Dr. Turner arrives and explains that she is extremely dehydrated, which caused her fall. He asks how often she vomits, to which she replies 20-30 times a day. The doctor diagnoses Maureen with hyperemesis gravidarum, a rare but often debilitating condition, where a pregnant woman experiences uncontrollable and prolonged vomiting spells.

Maureen is placed in the maternity home, presumably until she is well or until she's given birth. Maureen is distraught over the fact that Neil will be placed in foster care while she is in hospital, saying, "He cries for his dad already. I don't need him crying for me too". Shelagh tries to assure her that children are strong and Maureen laments that she wishes she were strong so her son wouldn't have to be.

Shelagh asks Patrick if there is some drug out there that can help Maureen, to which he replies he thinks there was a drug salesman who pitched such a drug a month before. The couple sift through advertisements and find the drug, and Shelagh excitedly proclaims that it has to be worth a try.

A few days later, Maureen is allowed to return home. The drug worked to cure her nausea and she is in good spirits and health. Neil is brought to the maternity home to see his mother. Dr. Turner gives her a pill bottle and explains that she keep taking them, to which Maureen replies that "Every woman in the family way is going to be banging your doors down for these".

She asks what the "magic" ingredient is, and Dr. Turner says that the drug, Distaval, is made of thalidomide. Happily, Maureen says she's going to "spread the word" about the drug's effectiveness and leaves the maternity home with her son.

Unknown at the time, but known to the audience, is that thalidomide is a drug that is unsafe to be taken by pregnant women, as women who took it often went on to have babies with severe limb deformities. The drug was recalled in 1961 after it was discovered that the devastating endemic of babies born with deformities was due to thalidomide. This historical period is explored further in Series 5 of Call the Midwife.