"This is a nightmare for the whole family," the new mom said after being separated from her son for three days

By Claudia Harmata
February 05, 2020 10:22 AM
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An Alabama mother briefly lost custody of her newborn baby when her drug test came back positive for opiates after she ate poppy seed bread the day before giving birth, according to reports.

Rebecca Hernandez was given a drug test after delivering her baby boy at the Crestwood Medical Center in Huntsville last week. Her newborn son was immediately taken away when the results showed she had traces of opiates in her system, according to local news outlet WAFF.

Hernandez and her doctor discerned that it had been a false positive due to poppy seed bread that she had eaten the day before, but she was still unable to see her son until an official confirmatory test showed she was clean days later.

At that point, she had been separated from her son for three days — who was sent to live under a temporary custody order with Hernandez’s aunt and uncle, as well as Hernandez’s other 13-month-old child.

“This is a nightmare for the whole family,” Hernandez told the WAFF last week. “Ya know, a newborn baby has to be close to mom. They have to be with the mom. That’s the most important time in their life to be close to the mom when they’re just born.”

Credit: Google Maps

Hernandez was finally reunited with her son on Friday. She and her doctor, Yashica Robinson, an obstetrician and gynecologist, are now calling on hospitals to wait for confirmatory tests before taking children away from their parents.

“I understand everything is a process. I understand you have to follow rules,” Hernandez told WAFF. “They should’ve done some more research before they decide to call the [Department of Human Resources].”

Robinson added, “Screening tests can have what we call false-positive results, where other things can interfere with those results. You can have a substance that a patient eats, as in this case, like poppy seeds that can make the test positive for opioids.”

Poppy Seed Bagel
| Credit: Getty

In a statement to PEOPLE, Crestwood Medical Center said they are “committed to following the law and regulatory requirements as well as ensuring the health and safety of our patients.”

“Our hospital incorporates patient care practices that are established by credentialed members of our medical staff so as to further insure safe and quality care for all of our patients.”

In April 2019, a Maryland woman in labor also tested positive for opiates after eating a poppy seed bagel. The hospital reported her to the state and assigned a case worker to monitor her newborn child. The new mom, Elizabeth Eden, said that her bagel breakfast turned into a “traumatizing” ordeal that required research and a letter to the hospital to have her case closed.

According to Dr. Travis Stork, an ER physician, host of The Doctors, poppy seeds come back positive for opioids because they come from the same plant source.

“Poppy seeds come from the opium poppy plant, which is where opiates such as morphine, codeine, and heroin come from,” he explained to PEOPLE last year.

Unfortunately, “there’s no way to tell if a positive test result stems from poppy seed consumption or opiate ingestion,” Stork, a member of PEOPLE’s Health Squad, said.

Stork said that anyone facing a drug test should avoid eating any amount of poppy seeds for 48 hours prior, which is the longest amount of time it could be detected in urine.

He also assured that while poppy seeds are derived from the same plant as opiates, eating a bagel or a lemon-poppy seed muffin will not create a drug high.

“Normal consumption of poppy seeds is considered safe, because when they are processed most of the opiate is removed and just residue remains,” Stork explained, though it’s best to avoid giving large doses of them to babies and small children.