Maggie Downs, a pregnant woman from Palm Springs, California, nearly lost her baby when she tested positive for methamphetamines, despite never having used the drug in her life. She was already several hours into labor when a nurse approached her in the hospital bathroom and informed her that she had tested positive for meth.
Confused, Maggie joked awkwardly that she’d “always been a positive person,” but internally, she was very worried. Naturally, she assumed it was just a mistake, which is why she didn’t hesitate when a nurse asked for a urine sample to run more tests. Unfortunately, it came back positive again.
Maggie was informed that she would be unable to breastfeed her child. She and her husband both insisted to the staff that there had to be a mistake somewhere, and Maggie tried to recall every aspect of her diet during her pregnancy.
“No alcohol, no deli foods, nothing raw, undercooked or smoked,” she says. “The bulk of my produce was organic, my drinking water purified through a reverse-osmosis system. I used clove oil on a persistent toothache instead of visiting the dentist, because I didn’t want any anesthetic to pass through my body and into the placenta. During all 42 weeks, the hardest drugs that entered my body were prenatal vitamins and puffs from my prescription asthma inhaler.”
That inhaler, it turns out, was the issue. After looking it up online, Maggie and her husband found that inhalers can contain trace amounts of methamphetamines. Meth is available in two forms: “d” and “l.” Type “d” meth is a prescription stimulant and appetite suppressant. The “l” form is found in over-the-counter medicines such as Vick’s inhalers, as well as some prescription medications. Illegal methamphetamine contains a mixture, which may be why the test was positive.
Unfortunately, the hospital still had to report the incident to Child Protective Services (CPS), and social workers warned that they may have to visit her at a later date and potentially even take her baby into protective custody.
“The weeks that follow are dark,” says Maggie. “I don’t know if I would have experienced the same level of postpartum depression without failing those drug tests. But I do know most other mothers don’t spend their first few weeks with baby the way I do – the shades drawn, peeking out from behind the blinds, examining each car that drives past.”
Luckily, CPS never came, and the hospital was able to successfully resolve the issue. Now, the entire Downs family is just looking forward to putting the incident behind them.
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