The Terrifying Reason One Laboring Mom Tested Positive for Meth

This bizarre, scary delivery story is a must-read.

Woman in Labor — Meth Tyler Olson/Shutterstock

Maggie Downs was several hours into labor with her first child when she heard the news she never expected to receive: She had tested positive for methamphetamine. According to Downs, she'd never even taken a Tylenol throughout her pregnancy. How could this be?

With her mind focused on delivering her child, Downs didn't need this extra stress. So, she offered to provide another sample for testing and then went about labor, expecting everything to turn out just fine.

Sadly, her ordeal was far from over. Her doctor became concerned with every contraction, as the baby's heartbeat dropped dramatically each time. Downs continued to push through her labor—but when the nurse returned, her news was the same as before: Once again, Downs had tested positive for meth. Even when Downs eventually gave birth to her son via an emergency C-section, her happiness was clouded by frustration.

"My drug sample is positive for meth. Again," Downs writes on Narratively. "The nurse ticks off a list of everything that's about to happen: The baby will be tested for drugs. The hospital social worker will meet with me before I can be discharged. Child Protective Services will be contacted to evaluate my fitness as a parent. 'And of course, you cannot breastfeed the baby,' the nurse finishes. I rip the oxygen mask away. This isn't a joke anymore."

Downs and her husband continued to argue with hospital staff, asserting that there was no way these results could be accurate. After all, Downs had been a model pregnant woman: She avoided alcohol, deli meats and undercooked foods. She bought organic produce. She always took her vitamins. But she used an albuterol inhaler for her asthma—and Downs and her husband quickly pointed to that as the possible root of the problem. 

The staff wasn't convinced. Protocol is protocol, and a nurse told Downs she would have to speak to Child Protective Services. Suddenly, one image flashed in Downs' head, sending her into a panic: She had announced her pregnancy with a Breaking Bad-themed post (Refresher: The show is about a teacher-turned-meth-dealer). Would this silly prank be held against her?

Through it all, Downs couldn't help but feel like a victim. 

"Three days pass with me in the hospital bed, recovering from surgery. For three days I nestle my son in my arms, and I encourage him to breastfeed. All three days, the nurses are reluctant to hand over the baby, saying my actions are irresponsible. I feel like a wounded dog. I fight the urge to bark and snap at their hands," Downs writes of her post-birth experience. "Every shift change, two nurses stand by my bed and inform another two nurses of my status as a combative patient. 'This woman tested positive for methamphetamine,' they say. 'She has been briefed on the risks associated with breastfeeding, and she refused our advice. She is breastfeeding at her own risk.'"

Downs was released from the hospital after a few days and allowed to take her son home (he had tested negative for drugs), but it took three weeks for a hospital social worker to call her to say that the final results were in and that she was not, in fact, on methamphetamine. Still, her wounds did not heal overnight—she battled postpartum depression, and believes that the way she was treated in the hospital had something to do with it.

By bravely sharing her story, Downs has raised a question we can all ask ourselves: How should hospitals treat pregnant women who test positive for drugs? 

It's a complicated issue for sure. You can read Downs' entire story here.