There’s a lot soon-to-be mothers must consider before they go into labor. They’ve gotta make sure they’re ready for a lengthy hospital stay and get the house prepped for the baby. But one new mom recently learned of something else she should’ve considered…
See, on the day the Maryland mom went into labor, doctors delivered not just her baby, but bad news, too. Worst of all, the dire situation could’ve been prevented if she’d just paid closer attention to what she’d eaten for breakfast!
On April 4, 2018, Elizabeth Eden was in labor at a Baltimore County hospital. Then, while suffering painful contractions, the doctor delivered bad news.
The doctor walked into the room, looked her straight in the eyes, and told her she tested positive for opiates, the same drug found in heroin — they’d have to take her baby away. But Elizabeth, below, had never done drugs in her life!
Racking her brain for an explanation, the soon-to-be mother remembered something she’d learned in a high school health class that explained the false positive.
See, earlier in the day, before she ended up at the hospital, Elizabeth stopped at her favorite cafe to pick up something for breakfast. She ordered her usual — a bagel.
More specifically, she ordered strawberry cream cheese on an everything bagel — a bagel coated in poppy seeds. Poppy seeds, Elizabeth knew, had been known to wreak havoc on drug tests — but why?
Farmers harvest poppy seeds from the poppy plant which contain the opiates found in opium, heroin, codeine, and morphine. While the seeds are perfectly safe to eat, they can turn up false positives on drug tests. This was what Elizabeth remembered.
To save her baby, Elizabeth tried explaining herself to the doctors and nurses. “I said, ‘Well, can you test me again? I ate a poppy seed bagel this morning for breakfast.'” But the doctor shook his head.
The second he saw the failed drug test, the doctor followed protocol and reported Elizabeth to the state as a potential drug user. Immediately after birth, doctors took baby Beatrice away.
Doctors told Elizabeth, “for the next five days, every 4 hours, we’re going to check her for withdrawal symptoms.” Elizabeth was in shock. “It was traumatizing,” she said. Was there nothing she could do?
At the end of a grueling five days, the hospital released Beatrice back to her parents: but that wasn’t the end to their awful ordeal.
Even with Beatrice home, state social workers continued investigating Elizabeth, dropping by the home to ensure Beatrice was doing a-okay — and that the mom wasn’t actually a drug addict.
For three weeks, social workers dropped by the house at random, checking in on the family. Meanwhile, Elizabeth presented the poppy seed defense to her assigned social worker. But did that have any real legal standing?
Jessica and Lon Binder / flickr
You might remember the episode of Seinfeld where, after eating a poppy seed muffin, Elaine failed a drug test, but ultimately kept her job thanks to “the poppy seed defense.” But the defense has legal precedent in reality, too.
In 2013, a Pennsylvania woman won nearly $150,000 in a lawsuit after the state took her baby away when she tested positive for opiates. She argued it had been poppy seeds that caused the false positive — and won!
So Elizabeth Eden gave the poppy seed defense to her caseworker, and, after putting up with even more bureaucracy, the official ultimately closed her file. Her family could be whole! Still, she wasn’t satisfied quite yet…
Elizabeth wrote to the hospital and detailed her research on poppy seeds and their effects on drug tests. She wanted to the hospital to either change what constitutes a “positive test” or warn expecting mothers about poppy seeds.
“We don’t typically educate patients” on the poppy seed drug test potential, Dr. Judith Rossiter-Pratt, the chief of the department of OBGYN at the hospital, below, said. Elizabeth’s letter, she said, made “a really good point.”
After writing the letter, Elizabeth posted in an all-moms Facebook page, warning others about the dangers of a poppy seed bagel. Her post received “a flood” of responses.
Facebook moms told her “‘Oh, this happened to a friend of mine,'” she said, “or, ‘Oh, this happened to me.'” The problem, it seemed, was a lot more far-reaching than she ever imagined. So she gave some advice…
“If you’re anywhere close to delivery,” she said, “avoid poppy seeds!” Just one more thing for pregnant mothers to worry about, but a precaution worth taking all the same — your family could depend on it!