A Blood Test Saves This Pregnant Mom from Medication and Stress : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Monday Jun 11 | BY |
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annmarie gianni pregnant

As you know, I’m quite an advocate of blood testing…

You may have heard me talk about it from time to time, LOL!

The reason why I push the concept is because it works — in fact getting your blood tested is more valuable than attending health events, webinars, taking courses or reading most books on health.

The reason why is simple. Carefully selected tests help you identify what your body needs — diet, supplements, and lifestyle — despite what any so-called expert says is right for you.

Today, I want to share a story about a pregnant woman who was spared a lot of stress after taking a round of blood tests specific to some symptoms she was having.

This woman happens to be Annmarie, my wife.

About a month ago, Ann started to itch like crazy.

At that time, she clocked in at about 28-30 weeks pregnant and was concerned that the intensity of the itching was a concern.

We’ve been doing regular checkups at Kaiser in Oakland (medical center) as well as working with our midwife throughout the pregnancy. Ann was due for an appointment, so when she showed up she asked the doc about the itching.

The doctor said she could run a few tests to see how her liver was functioning. These included AST and ALT — which are liver enzymes as well as a serum bile acid blood test which tests for bile salts in the blood. (Read: Not bath salts. )

When she got her results back a few days later, her AST and ALT were elevated at around 60 and her bile salts were also elevated at 14.

Because of these levels, the doctor called.

She needed to talk to Ann about her “high risk” pregnancy. She wanted to put Ann on a bile lowering medication — I don’t know the name of it — which Ann was completely against.

When Ann called me to chat about it — I was in Costa Mesa — I told I would look into the tests and see what I came up with. I also told her to call Dr. Williams to see what his thoughts were.

I did some quick research and discovered that the doctor likely assumed Ann was dealing with obstetric cholestasis — which is a somewhat rare condition which happens during pregnancy that is caused by partial obstruction of the bile ducts and causes bile to leak into the blood stream.

In some cases, this is not a healthy situation for the baby, since risk of stillborn increases with this condition.

I told her not to panic and that some of the research I dug up stated that her liver enzymes would have to be close to 200 for this to be a major concern and her bile acid levels would have to be over 20 — maybe even higher.

So we decided that she’d go back to the doctor and agree to another test in two weeks — to see if the levels either went up or down. We’d base any other decisions on what those tests told us.

Dr. Williams also got back to us and told Ann to lay off some of the natural pregnancy herbs she was taking.

We went back to the doctor with our plan. Since we’ve built a good relationship with our MD, she agreed to this little deal. No consideration of medications until the second round of testing.

Could it be the herbs?

The herbs Ann was taking were red raspberry leaf, dandelion, nettles, rose hips, peppermint, alfalfa, oatstraw and milk thistle. Everyone had told us these were the best for pregnancy. We agreed — and, in fact, many of them are.

After getting her tests back, Ann did a little more research and noticed something curious about a few of them. They are good for the liver, yes, and for pregnancy — but one of the reasons why is because they stimulate the liver to increase the production of bile.

She sent me over the link where we found this and we became even more convinced that if she would just stop taking the ones that had an affinity to the liver, her next test levels would be lower and she’d be in the clear.

So she stopped them completely.

Funny thing, is that a day or two after she took them out of her protocol, her itching almost completely went away. A good first sign, we thought.

Two weeks later, Ann re-tested her levels.

Her bile salts were at 1.9. They had dropped over 12 points and now at a no-risk level.

We’re still waiting for the AST and ALT levels, but I’m sure they’re lower too. (I’ll update this when we get them.)

A little bit of detective work kept Ann off medication…

Now, I don’t know if Ann would have taken the medication or not. It’s funny how when you suddenly have to worry about someone other than yourself, your ideas and thoughts shift just a bit.

We don’t even know our child yet, but we’re making decisions based on its well being — some that aren’t as cut and dried as they would be if they were only for myself or for Ann.

If the risk were high of stillborn and we couldn’t lower the levels naturally, I’m sure we would have considered it. But, like many health issues, there was another option for us — we just needed to dig a little.

The keys to this success — as we’d like to call it — are these (I’ve broken it down to 6)…

1. We didn’t take the doctor’s first suggestion at face value.

Now this doesn’t mean “don’t listen to your doctor.” It just means that you have power in your relationship with your health care provider. You can listen, you can question, you can get another opinion or you can walk out of the room.

We could have easily gotten scared and put Annmarie on medication to lower her bile salts. That would have been the easiest option. But for us, that wasn’t the first knee jerk reaction. We needed more proof. So we did some research, talked to the doctor and used a lifeline (called Dr. Williams.)

2. We worked with our doctor.

Obviously, if you don’t have a good relationship with your MD, you’re not going to be able to this (NOTE: If you don’t have a good relationship with your MD, you should probably get a new one.)

Instead of saying “OK, whatever you say, Doc,” we came to her with a smart and logical solution. Let’s give it two weeks, stop the herbs and see what the next test results are. Then we’ll know if this was an aberration or a trend that needed to be monitored.

She is a smart lady and agreed. Doctors love data, and so do I. It was the right choice.

3. We got another opinion.

We weren’t going to just listen to one person on this issue — the life of your soon to be child is too important. So we talked to Dr. Williams as well. His suggestion turned out to be what got Ann out of this mess.

4. We didn’t panic.

When something is abnormal with your health, the first reaction is usually to freak out. In this case, we didn’t. We were cautious, yes, but didn’t panic and jump to conclusions. We waited for concrete data to then decide what to do.

5. Ann took more than one test.

Some people just get a blood test and think they’re done. This is not the case. Blood tests should be done regularly for general health and even more so if you have a disease, illness or condition.

If Ann had just taken one test, the evidence would have pointed to obstetric cholestasis. Her decisions would all have been based around that diagnosis. Looking at her second test result, it’s clear our decision would have been premature. She doesn’t have the condition. Our personal experimentation and very small sample size (1) tell us that she was likely taking too many pregnancy herbs.

The second test confirmed that whatever she did in the time between improved her situation enough to remove her from any risk. There’s no better way to help eliminate stress and unnecessary treatment than some blood testing.

In fact, we’ll continue to monitor these markers until she has the baby. Just two tests don’t mean she’s completely in the clear either!

6. Know that “natural” doesn’t always mean “good” in all instances.

In this instance, Ann’s itching and her bile markers went down after stopping the herbs. Now, I can’t definitively say that these herbs aren’t good for pregnancy or anything as widely sweeping as that.

What I can say is that for Annmarie — at time time in her pregnancy — these herbs were not helpful.

In fact, this also may prove (as long as there wasn’t a variable that I missed — which is entirely possible) that the herbs are quite effective at helping stimulate the production of bile — at least for Annmarie.

This fact, brings to light the issue that all natural isn’t always all good in all situations.

Getting regular blood tests can help confirm things like this, which is why I’m so sold on their effectiveness for general and preventative health.

(Another variable could simply have been that the baby shifted taking pressure off of her liver. Either way, the result is the same — healthy Annmarie, healthy baby — medication free.)

Final thoughts…

The biggest lesson of this story for me is that the use of blood tests helped us identify an issue — possibly too many pregnancy herbs — that helped Annmarie and our unborn child be healthier. Blood tests are not tools to scoff at, nor discount.

I know that this is a timely story, since we’re selling a recently released blood test program, but I have no shame in selling something that is based upon methods that I know will help you get healthier. It’s been proven to me over and over again.

What blood tests have also done is brought me perspective about what works for me personally — so I don’t have to be confused by all the experts who always seem to know just what’s right for me.

That’s peace of mind to me, for sure.

Maybe it could do the same for you…

Anyway, if you want to check out this program, I highly suggest it. It’s based on my own personal health protocol and 30 years of Dr. Williams’ clinical, hands-on practice.

Click here to read more about The Complete Blood Test Blueprint Program now!

Live Awesome!

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Lance says:

    Do you recommend blood tests be done locally? Or are there some online sites that you can mail a blood sample to?

  2. Charlotte says:

    Ha, it funny when you haven’t seen someone (on video in this case) for a long time and all of a sudden, Boom!
    Thanks for sharing this knowledge.
    She must be due really really soon if she’s 40 weeks. Good luck to you guys! You’re going to make great parents.

  3. Charlotte says:


  4. Cathy says:

    The best part about this article is the common sense approach and the good news! I’m so happy for you and wish you all the best in your new journey into the best part of life, in my opinion!!

  5. Jennifer says:

    I just want to say how much I appreciate your honesty and that you don’t get wedded to what you think should be right. Continuing to ask questions is often more important that what we know already. Pregnancy is a big example of how in flux our bodies are and how our needs are always changing. Thank you.

  6. Carol Lani Johnson says:

    Believe you meant peace if mind! : )

  7. Carol Lani Johnson says:

    Peace of mind

  8. Kelley says:

    Which herbs did she stop? Milk thistle and dandelion? Or all of them

  9. Karen says:

    So nice to see Annmarie – she is looking great! Can’t wait to see who the baby looks like. Wishing you all the very best!

  10. cindi says:

    i am so glad u used your head and found the cause.. it is scary when u have to think of your baby and their well being… i had 3 and was lucky… no problems with any of them… Ann is looking beautiful as always…. so glad she is feeling better too…. God Bless u all…..

  11. Ed says:

    Great to hear little Victoras is nearly due and healthy. You two are going to be great parents and soon will have new insights on sleep deprivation. Thanks for sharing.

  12. zyxomma says:

    Health and peace, Annmarie, Kevin, and baby.

  13. Lance,

    There are a couple of websites you can go through to have your blood tested. There are some states, New York is one, where you cannot use these sites. Otherwise, the way it works is that you “order” and pay for the lab online. You’ll then print the lab slip and take it into a lab like Lab Corp to have your blood drawn.

    My Med Lab is the one I go to most often as they tend to be cheapest for the labs I need to have regularly drawn. There are other labs out there, but I can’t recall their names off the top of my head.

  14. Sarah says:

    Great article with great suggestions and a great lesson! I had elevated liver enzymes as well and since I have MS, the liver doctor told me I probably had another autoimmune liver disease. Instead I got a second opinion from a more optimistic MD in the same clinic, retested a few months later, and everything was normal. Always feel good about your doctor, if you don’t, or if they seem pessimistic, then get a new one! And yes, get retested. Love it! And congratulations on your upcoming new addition!

  15. Beth says:

    Herbs, natural they are but powerful and we have to be careful with it’s use especially with pregnancy. I took gobs of raspberry leaf when I was pregnant. No adverse effects. Best of luck to you both and for your natural delivery:)

  16. Barb says:

    I was always advised to only take red raspberry in the final 3 weeks of pregnancy, something to do with it toning the uterus in preparation for birth.

  17. naomi says:

    ann looks lovely! i know people who think herbs are either ineffective, or, you can use as much of them as you like because “they are natural”… best wishes

  18. Noga Fisher says:

    God bless you both! AnnMarie you’re looking terrific!!

  19. Brenda says:

    I find it odd that you called them “pregnancy herbs” because none of them are specific to pregnancy. They are all used for many reasons.
    I love seeing Ann Marie happy and healthy and in the end you get the prize, a happy and healthy little Gianni. That is the best part.
    Peace & hugs

  20. How about some Edgar Casey castor oil packs for the liver, they are external. Also occasional cool packs or ice on the liver may help. I had bad itchy skin from some naturopathic meds, dandelion and milk thistle did help some. Happy, healthy, perfect baby.

  21. eric rothwarf says:

    Herbs are not food, they are drugs…Why would you be taking them for no apparent problem????

    People always want more of everything…more money, more sex, more youth, even more health. Sometimes more is less…

  22. Jessica says:

    I had my blood tested due to chronic fatigue, constant indigestion, and wanting to know if my levels were good for baby number 2. Everything came back fine, but I still have these issues. What next?? Could this be candida? Not easily identified from blood tests I understand. Blood testing isn’t the whole story, but yes, it should be part of the package.

  23. Mary Kay says:

    I was 47 yrs old and pg with twins…yep, I got the itching. BAD. Kept telling my high-risk doc about it and she kept blowing it off. Finally got so bad I ended up in the hospital and was beginning to go into labor..I was around 28 weeks, I believe….Yep. Same thing. Cholestasis due to “backed up” bile salts. I swore I’d never do drugs, but …like you said….think about having your twins too early…..I did take the drug. It was called ActiGall. Stimulates your gall bladder apparently. Within two days I was better and went home. I did end up having the twins at 34 weeks though, but not due to that.

    I like your knowledgeable no-nonsense approach. Yay!

  24. Devi says:

    I also had that itching when I was pregnant with my son. Not sure what it was – I was NOT taking herbal extracts at the time but for some reason thought that it was the prenatal vitamins. The itching was so bad I would scratch my self with a hair brush. I felt like the iron levels were too high or I reasoned that the skin was regenerating at too fast a pace. I did have a high risk pregnancy but didn’t know until much later – and that was discovered from the Pee/urine test they would give me each visit. Tests are GOOD.

  25. Odette says:

    Interesting…. I am either crazy, naive, lucky or all of the above or….. My second child was conceived when I was 42. I had been eating a vegan, partly raw diet for about a year before conception. I was under the care of a private birth attendant who has been practising for over thirty years and has attended over one thousand births. (where I live, people who choose not to register with the College of Midwives and Obstetricians are not allowed to call themselves midwives.) I had a normal healthy pregnancy except for that itchy skin! My birth attendant and my homeopath did not express any alarm. I never felt the need to even visit my doctor and never underwent any special tests. My daughter was born (I was 43 at that point) in the water at home and I caught her as she dived gently into this world. Quick, easy, no tearing. She is now a vibrant 5 year old.
    I should add that throughout my pregnancy beans and nuts nauseated me so much that my vegan eating habits went out the window.
    There is so much fear in our culture around (what I choose to look at as transitions) birth and death. Many decisions end up being based on panic and fear. There is often a lot of emphasis on controlling and managing pregnancy and birth rather than allowing the beautiful blossoming to unfold on its own. Like gardening. We can test the soil, test the blood and provide the right growing conditions….. and there are many ways to read the growing conditions. It is also valuable to assess all interventions. There is a great acronym that provides sane guidelines for choosing any kind of health related procedure:
    B what are the Benefits?
    R what are the Risks?
    A what are the Alternatives?
    N what if we do Nothing?
    D leave us alone and take our time to make a Decision.

    It is heartening to witness your level headed approach based on your personal experience, research and studies.
    May you and Anne-Marie have all the best support in bringing this new lovely being into the world.
    Best wishes!

  26. LynnCS says:

    Great info, Kev. Wishing you both a non eventful delivery and a wonderful life ahead with your new little one.

  27. I wish you wonderful time! Do you talk with matt monarch and angela ? Do exchange on natural birth? They keep their birth secret and you make your pragnacy public.

  28. Rocio says:

    I think you are having a baby girl!
    how cute! thank you for the picture.
    love and blessings,

  29. Ed says:

    Just one more thing,Kev your caption to Annmarie’s’ picture is perfect for expressing the glow of a soon to be mother.Still I had no idea you wrote so cryptically,giving us a symbiotogram, or an ambigram rotated 180 degrees.More simply put WOW = MOM

  30. HawaiiAna says:

    Great article, Kevin. I’m 6 mos pregnant and are drinking teas made with those same herbs. Fortunately or unfortunately I’m not that religious about it, which may have contributed to my moderate consumption of these herbs. ..
    Anyway, main take-away from your article is be careful with what goes into your body , especially during pregnancy. Natural or not…
    Have you heard of ALCAT test? It’s amazing what it can show you.

  31. Ray says:

    OMG Alfalfa! Hopefully it was the mature plant and not the sprouts. The sprouts are reported to contain canavanine and also harbor e. coli and listeria which are said to be fatal to the unborn. Side effects mentioned of the sprouts include autoimmunity and cancer relapse after remission. Though cooking might somewhat neutralize the anti-nutrient, but not the phytoestrogen, raw juicing results in concentration effect. The above gleaned from the following web sites (which should be referred to, among other resources, in order to draw your own conclusion):
    Some other sites specifically recommend against regular consumption by expectant or nursing mothers. See for example:
    Whilst there may be nutritional benefits on the flip side, the sprouts should be handled with care (pun intended).

  32. Becky says:

    Very interesting about the itching – I was wondering I have a friend who has this terrible itching but she’s not taking any herbs. She’s vegetarian but eats fish. She also has cravings for chalk! At times she has also had a sore tongue. Does anyone have any ideas? Also would your blood test program give some solutions about what to do with the values found? Many thanks and many blessings for the baby

  33. Brooke says:

    @Becky (comment #32) – check out Daniel Vitalis’ youtube video on clay. I think it’s called the 10 second detox or something. He talks about pregnant women having a craving for dirt/clay/chalk. Maybe your friend could start taking zeoforce? After you watch the video, you probably won’t be surprised that your friend is itching and is craving chalk. Both are symptoms of the liver needing help.

    Kevin – good to see Annmarie is looking great and I’m so happy you both had this experience to tell us about. Some doctors just don’t know how to treat things other than drugs. Or, they know how to do things without drugs but they assume their patients are too lazy or don’t want to follow through.

  34. kitten says:

    To Sarah #14

    Have you read MINDING MY MITOCHONDRIA by Dr Terry Wahls?
    She was in a wheelchair with MS, took control of her health through diet primarily and is now back to excellent health. She also appears in an excellent TED talk that gives the big picture and has a new book coming soon!

  35. jessica says:

    so which herbs did ann stop taking?

  36. Ana says:

    Dear Kevin and Annemarie,
    As someone already suggested, the fact that obviously it wasn’t doing you good to take ALL THOSE herbs might not necessarily mean that it won’t do you good to take maybe ONE of them (?)
    I also recommend raspberry, specially at the end of the pregnancy, to prepare the uterus for the best possible labor.
    You could always try it and see…
    Much love,

  37. Laurie says:

    Yes, like Jessica I want to know which herbs she stopped taking. My daugher-in-law has had this condition and is pregnant right now. So we are awaiting the next installment. Please don’t leave us hanging. I understand if you are waiting for tests,etc. Many blessings for you as the time of birth draws near.

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