As the neurotic Joanna Clore in Green Wing, Pippa Haywood had to chain-smoke her way through every episode – but in reality, the actress couldn’t be more different.

‘Poor old Joanna puffs cigarettes all day and isn’t the kind of character who takes good care of herself, whereas I don’t smoke and I do lots of yoga, which helps to keep me calm and flexible,’ she explains.

Coping with crippling back pain

The star of The Brittas Empire and Dalziel And Pascoe lives in Dorset with her partner Malcolm and daughters Molly and Amy. Pippa credits yoga with sorting out the crippling back pain she suffered several years ago.

‘I developed a bad back after I had my first daughter and ended up bent double,’ she says. ‘Painkillers didn’t help, so I decided to try acupuncture. It was amazing and gave me bursts of pain-free time. I was able to do some yoga, which helped to strengthen my back and core muscles.’

It was like a tap had been turned on

However, while this cured her back pain, the birth of Amy triggered a far more serious health problem.

‘I woke up one morning feeling a bit strange about a month after her birth,’ recalls Pippa. ‘Then I just started bleeding everywhere. It was like a tap had been turned on and I had to be rushed to hospital by ambulance.’

She had a condition known as a retained placenta, which occurs in about two per cent of births. This is when all or part of the placenta, which is usually expelled by the uterus after birth, doesn’t come out, resulting in infection and haemorrhaging.

‘Malcolm later said that it looked like someone had been murdered in our home as there was a trail of blood going from the house and out the door to where I’d got in the ambulance.

'When I arrived at hospital I just remember alarms going off all around my bed, but for some reason I felt strangely calm.’

I was very lucky

In the end, Pippa lost so much blood she needed a massive transfusion.

‘My brother, who’s a cardiologist, was really shocked when he heard that my blood count was down to six. He later told me I nearly died. I was very lucky that I only lived five minutes away from the hospital.’

Thankfully, Pippa was well enough to leave hospital soon after and, two weeks later, she was back at work. Despite such a traumatic experience, it hasn’t put her off pregnancy.

‘You hear other women say that they feel their family is complete, but I’ve never felt that. I adored being pregnant, despite the difficulties I encountered.’

An issue it's important to be open about

Pippa suffered a miscarriage between having her first and second children. She feels it’s an issue that it’s important to be open about.

‘My miscarriage happened during the early stages of my pregnancy. We hadn’t been planning on having a baby at that time, so I’d only just got my head round the idea when I miscarried,’ she says.

Miscarriages are far more common than most people think, affecting one in four pregnancies. Fifty per cent of these cases are caused by a chromosome or genetic problem, but there’s often no medical reason for it to happen.

Pippa doesn’t rule out appearing nude again, as she did in the last episode of Green Wing. ‘After you’ve given birth and thrust your bottom in someone’s face, your inhibitions do dwindle,’ she laughs.

Emily Watkins