- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Women crave a lot of things when they are pregnant, including the Internet.
Expectant mothers can find answers to their questions at Web sites such as www.PregnancyToday.com and www.ChildbirthSolutions.com.
"I want women to come to my site and know that they are getting the true scoop and lots of it," said Bonnie Matheson, founder of ChildbirthSolutions.
These sites have been met with a surge of female readers. The number of participants on ChildbirthSolutions has been growing steadily since the site was established in February. PregnancyToday receives more than 6 million page views every month, making it the biggest pregnancy site on the Net, says Elisa Ast All, its editor in chief.
Based in Evanston, Ill., Mrs. All started her site four years ago as the companion to a magazine she was producing. She was pregnant with her first child at the time. The magazine's Web site quickly took off, spawning 27 more sites, 16 in English and 11 in Spanish, on issues ranging from preparing for a pregnancy to raising teen-agers.
Mrs. All and her husband originally ran the site from their home, but have since moved to an office and now have a 17-member staff managing the parent company, www.iParenting.com.
Mrs. Matheson was inspired to create ChildbirthSolutions.com from experiences she had delivering her five children, who in turn have given birth to nine grandchildren.
Despite her efforts to be ready for the arrival of her first child in 1962, Mrs. Matheson was unprepared for the experience. By the time she had her second child the following year, she was able to communicate to her doctors how she wanted every aspect of her pregnancy to be.
"I really did it myself," she says. "It was such an empowering experience. I knew there was nothing in the whole world I couldn't do."
ChildbirthSolutions was on line Feb. 24, the 37th anniversary of Mrs. Matheson's second delivery.
Mrs. Matheson says she created the site, which addresses issues from planning a pregnancy to postpartum, to ensure that there are no surprises around the bend for mothers-to-be.
"I want doctors to like the site. I want midwives to like the site," Mrs. Matheson says. "I want women who want to give birth alone in the middle of the woods to like the site."
ChildbirthSolutions in the future will include pages for grandparents and older siblings, in addition to existing text for mothers- and fathers-to-be. It also will offer guidance for preparing pets for the arrival of a new family member.
Both Web sites offer a variety of interactive elements.
"PregnancyToday is always pioneering new features and tools," Mrs. All says. "There are a lot of interesting things that other sites don't do."
For example, it has an on-line pregnancy calendar that can provide a mother-to-be with day-by-day information about the development of her unborn child and the changes in her own body simply by entering her due date.
The company also created a Birthplan Maker, where a woman can create a list of preferences for her delivery to ensure that her caregiver knows exactly what she wants.
Excerpts from diaries and message boards for women and men to communicate with others in their position are also available on the site.
"The Internet has opened up conversations," Mrs. All says. "Instead of talking over the backyard fence, women are chatting over a cyber-fence. They can talk to women anywhere. It just opens up the world."
The folks at ChildbirthSolutions also feature their picks of favorite products for the mother or baby in the shopping area of the site, Maternopia.
"We try to pick what we think are good buys," she says. "It's not advertising, but our picks."
The site soon will have on-line classes and a message board for users.
Leonie Paatsch is a regular on PregnancyToday's mom's talk page. The Nashville, Tenn., resident is expecting her first child in September.
"I check it a few times a day, especially when I know a baby is about to arrive," she says. "On a couple of occasions, I have been away for a week, and it is a big task to catch up on what has been missed."
In the past 10 weeks, she said, she has found a unique bond with other women using the site.
"I have been truly overwhelmed and amazed at how connected I feel to women I do not personally know and will never meet," Mrs. Paatsch says. "It doesn't seem to matter how you feel. Someone understands and says what you need to hear. If you have a question, someone seems to know the answer, or can put you on the right track to finding one," she says.
Mrs. Paatsch says she has created special friendships with some of the women.
"A personal e-mail is shared, and thus begins an on-line friendship that will outlast your time on the board," she says. "I have formed two such friendships in this manner. I truly believe this is the sisterhood at its best."
Mrs. All says she has received much positive feedback on the site over the years.
"People are always saying 'thank you' for something," she says. "It's a really good feeling to know that we're helping people. That's why we started this. We never lose sight of that."

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