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An investigation into a ‘labor-inducing cream cheese’

A bagel shop in Worcester makes some wild claims about its cream cheese, specifically that it’ll induce labor in pregnant women. It’s become the stuff of legends, filling pregnancy and parenting blogs. But does it really work?
A bagel shop in Worcester makes some wild claims about it's cream cheese, specifically that it'll induce labor in pregnant women. It's become the stuff of legends, filling pregnancy and parenting blogs. But does it really work?

The following is a very important cream cheese investigation that involves an extra-pregnant woman, a coffee shop on the fourth floor of an office tower in downtown Worcester, and an outlandish claim.

First, the claim: In 1994, while his wife was pregnant, a Worcester man named Eric Jasmin read an article about inducing labor. Jasmin fancies himself a “mixologist,” and also owns a cafe, Eric’s La Patisserie. So, naturally, he decided he was going to figure out a way to induce labor using cream cheese. That you eat.

Jasmin announced the creation of his “labor-inducing cream cheese” on a local radio station. A pregnant woman heard about it. Jasmin delivered the cream cheese to her. Within hours, she had the baby.

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Word spread quickly. Pregnant women flocked to Eric’s La Patisserie, where he guaranteed them that if they were past their due date when they ate the cream cheese, they would go into labor. He refused to divulge what’s in the cream cheese. And he won’t say exactly when they would go into labor, only that it would happen. For many women, that was good enough.

To date, Jasmin says about 20,000 mothers-to-be have tried his secret recipe. He claims a 100 percent success rate.

For years, I’ve wanted to investigate this claim, but I’ve always been missing a key ingredient — an overdue woman. Each time I asked a pregnant friend to come to Worcester with me to test the claim, the woman delivered early. I became convinced that I was labor-inducing. Then I asked Maria Cramer, who was pregnant with her second child, a baby girl.

Cramer is a Globe Spotlight reporter. Her husband, Michael Levenson, is also a Globe reporter, and I hoped that this child inherited the ability to blow a deadline.

On Dec. 8, the baby did just that, sailing past the due date with seemingly no inclination to budge.

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The following day, a “skeptical but hopeful” Cramer agreed to get in the car with me and drive to Eric’s La Patisserie in Worcester, 44 miles away from the Boston hospital where she planned to give birth.

That morning, Cramer underwent a stress test and received permission from her doctor to make the trip and eat the cream cheese. Meanwhile, I packed warm blankets in my car and tried to remember what I’d learned in childbirth classes with my wife because I was fully convinced I was going to deliver a baby on the side of the Mass. Pike. There’s a reason only one of us is a Spotlight reporter.

We arrived at Eric’s just after the lunchtime rush. He was expecting us, and introduced us to the building security guard — who said pregnant women waddled in the door every day — and a customer whose wife had given birth after eating the cream cheese. Cramer was skeptical, and whispered to me that they might be plants. (Upon minor interrogation, the customer said his wife ate the cream cheese, and he definitely now has a child, but seemed noncommittal on whether the two were related.)

Jasmin sold us two small packets of cream cheese — $3 a pop, but it comes with a souvenir bib — and toasted a bagel for Cramer. We sat at a table in the corner. She lathered it on and took a bite. It was 1:25 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9.

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And then, nothing happened.

Jasmin came by to check on us, said it could take 24 hours, then revised his prediction when he discovered that he and Cramer shared a birthday on Sunday, Dec. 11. That was when the baby would be born, he said with full confidence.

We left Worcester because Cramer wanted to beat traffic back to the city, got on the Mass. Pike, nearly ran out of gas — minor oversight — and then had a little bit of fun with Cramer’s husband when he texted wondering where we were. For a second, we had him wondering how quickly he could get to Framingham.

And then, nothing happened.

The “labor-inducing” cream cheese at at Eric’s La Patisserie in Worcester.
The “labor-inducing” cream cheese at at Eric’s La Patisserie in Worcester.Taylor de Lench/Globe Staff

Sunday came and went. Maria Cramer and Eric Jasmin celebrated their birthdays. The baby did not.

Over the next several days, Cramer tried a few other tricks to get the baby to come. She went for a long walk. She went dancing. She did yoga. She tried “hippy-dippy raspberry leaf tea.” None of it worked.

“Sometimes you need some modern medicine,” Cramer said, and so on Dec. 15, one week after her due date and six days after she ate the cream cheese, doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital used something that is actually proven to induce labor — the drug Pitocin.

Late that night, after an epidural and three hours of pushing, a healthy baby girl named Josephine Mae finally entered the world, weighing in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces.

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When asked whether she thought the cream cheese played any role in Josephine’s birth, Cramer said “absolutely not.” But she did say the cream cheese was delicious, and that Eric’s makes the best chocolate chip cookie she’s ever eaten. So there’s that.


Billy Baker can be reached at billybaker@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @billy_baker.