Can You Eat Poppy Seeds During Pregnancy? Is It Safe?

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When eating a lemon poppyseed muffin or everything bagel, the last thing you’d expect is for this spice to cause unsafe effects for you and your baby. However, eating poppy seeds has been pointed to as the innocent culprit for failed drug tests.

Can you continue to eat poppy seeds while pregnant or does this kitchen staple lead to side effects for your growing baby?

Inherently known for the interesting connection to opiate medications, poppy seeds can definitely still be safe to enjoy while pregnant. Sticking with smaller amounts of the seeds is key to ensuring you don’t overdo it. 

These seeds are not only a kitchen and bakery staple, but have been useful in the bathroom and doctor’s office as well. In this article, I’ll break down the science behind their affiliation with medications, as well as share some promising poppy-related breakthroughs in the world of fertility!

Is It Safe to Eat Poppy Seeds During Pregnancy? 

Poppy seeds are notorious for their connection to drugs- namely, opiates. You may have been been told before to avoid eating these seeds before drug tests, such as those given when you start a new job.

poppy seeds in a wooden bowl

How does this word of mouth hold up to science, and more importantly, does this mean eating these seeds whilst pregnant can cause your unborn baby to feel the effects of drugs?

These seeds you commonly find in the baking aisle come from the same plant that also produces the opiate pharmaceuticals morphine and codeine.

While this seems strange, the two products stem from different parts of the plant and poppy seeds naturally contain only trace amounts of the drugs (source: German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment).

Cross-contamination is possible, however, and morphine and/or codeine can make its way to the edible poppy seeds during harvesting (source: German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment). This risk of cross-contamination is what can cause side effects and be worrying. 

Throughout pregnancy, many herbs and spices are safe when eaten in foods and drinks, but not when consumed in large amounts. The same is true for these seeds. 

While eating a poppy seed confection can lead to testing positive for having morphine in your system, the positive drug test is typically short-lived. This means that if you eat a poppy seed roll for breakfast, it is has worked its way through your body within a few hours and the drug is not just building up in your body (source: Journal of Analytical Toxicology).

For this reason, German authorities have recommended that anyone, pregnant women or otherwise, refrain from eating large amounts of poppy seeds (source: German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment). When eaten in smaller amounts, these seeds continue to be safe during all trimesters of pregnancy. 

These seeds are a surprising source of calcium, as well as containing some iron and fiber. A single teaspoon of these seeds meets 4% of your daily calcium needs- important during pregnancy to keep mom’s bones strong while building baby’s skeleton (source: USDA). 

bagels with poppy seeds

Food Containing Poppy Seeds and Pregnancy Safety 

As we have already covered, poppy seeds remain safe while pregnant, so long as you don’t go overboard and stick to smaller amounts. But what does this mean in terms of foods?

These seeds are a star ingredient in many baked goods and desserts. From bagels to Ukrainian poppy seed rolls, there is also a wide range when it comes to the amount of these seeds used in each dish.

Foods that call for lesser amounts of this seed will ultimately be less risky than those that rely on these seeds as their main ingredient, but you don’t have to give up either!

When eating in smaller portions or as an occasional treat, heavy dishes like the poppy seed roll can still be a safe addition to your pregnancy diet. Foods with only small amounts of this seed, such as a sprinkle of everything bagel seasoning are likely more safe to enjoy on a regular basis as they contain smaller amounts of the spice. 

Some old home remedies to encourage sleep call for steeping these seeds in warm milk and honey. While this sounds delicious, it is not advisable as this process can result in a strong ‘tea’ with a high level of morphine (source: German Ferderal Institute for Risk Assessment)

White vs Black Poppy Seeds When Pregnant 

White poppy seeds, which are popular in Middle Eastern styles of cooking, come from the same exact plant as black poppy seeds. 

The lighter-hued seeds are often ground into a powder and used to thicken stews and sauces while imparting their nutty flavor. 

Since white and black seeds (and also blue poppy seeds) are all produced by the same species of opium poppy plant, their safety profile is consistent. Due to their color, they are less readily visible in foods than black or blue seeds, which can be a greater challenge when dining out. 

Poppy Seed Oil – Pregnancy Safety and Fertility 

Poppy seed oil sounds like something to be used in the kitchen, but many women actually turn to the oil in the bathroom! It is promoted as a wonder ingredient for maintaining shiny hair and smooth skin. 

poppy seeds oil in small jars

The oil from these seeds does have the same risk of cross-contamination as it is made from the very same plant. However, there is not any research to show that topical use on skin or hair can cause the same drug effects as eating large amounts of seeds can.

While it is best to avoid eating or drinking products that contain this oil, topical use is likely safe during pregnancy. 

Another older treatment that comes back around is the use of poppy seed oil to boost fertility. Instead of taking poppy this oil as a nutritional supplement, doctors have seen some success using a poppy seed oil-based contrast solution to flush a hopeful mother’s fallopian tubes.

Traditionally this procedure uses a water-based contrast solution. Women who had the same procedure using the oil-based solution had higher rates of pregnancy compared to the standard water-based treatment (source: New England Journal of Medicine). 

Using a poppy seed oil solution to complete this procedure isn’t yet standard, but the limited research so far shows a promising way to improve fertility treatments!

At first, it may seem worrying that a kitchen spice can cause a positive drug test, especially if you are pregnant! Hopefully, this article has reassured you that poppy seeds can still have a safe place in your kitchen when eaten in moderation.