From the US to NZ with four kids & a career

Danielle and Donnie with twins Amelia and Reese (9), and boys Milo (5) and Pax (3)
© Brogan Campbell – KiwiCaptures.co.nz
Dr Danielle Jones is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, world traveller and mother of four: twin girls (9) and two boys (5 and 3). Across various social media platforms, “Mama Doctor Jones” discusses pregnancy, parenting and all matters gynaecological. We spoke with Danielle about her passion for maternal health, and on moving the family from Texas to Invercargill at the end of last year to take up a job at Southland Hospital.

What made you want to bring the family to New Zealand? 

The very first trip we took after we got married was to the North Island. Then we went to the South Island in 2018 with our three eldest children, and we fell in love! In 2019 our plan was to do a sabbatical year. We sold our house, gave everything we owned away and bought one-way tickets to start a trek around the world. Then Covid happened. I started doing locums, and for 18 months we lived a nomadic life. We needed to figure out what we wanted to do next, so I started applying for jobs in New Zealand. 

How’s it been for the kids?

Before the move here, we had lived in 17 different houses over 18 months – it was chaos constantly. The kids were excited to have a house to stay in for a while and decorate their rooms. We have felt incredibly taken in by the community here.

What do you think about NZ’s maternal healthcare system?

Patients get very personalised, one-on-one care that’s not available in the US, as obstetricians see almost every patient here. (At home, I’d have about 20 patients a month and I might get to deliver some of them and not others.) Midwives going into people’s homes and seeing them after delivery and checking in on breastfeeding, for instance – I think it’s very valuable. 

On the other hand, I feel like it’s an unsustainable system. Midwives, and it may be different in other parts of the country, but here they are so incredibly stretched. I can’t imagine working like they work – they are basically on call for their patients all the time. 

What are you most passionate about in maternal health?

While I absolutely feel like the most important thing is making sure both the patient and the baby are healthy, I also think there is space we can give to the emotional and connectivity side to having a baby. I try to really listen to my patients and to at least make something about the experience a little easier. 

How can we support the emotional experience during a caesarean?

We have started doing ‘direct to the chest’ deliveries in caesareans, where the midwife will put on sterile gloves and take the baby directly from me before we cut the cord and put it on mum’s chest, and then we can do delayed cord clamping while baby is still attached and while mum’s holding her baby.

I experienced this with the delivery of my fourth baby. I don’t think my first two births were negative experiences, just different – my twins were premature, so I didn’t expect to hold them immediately, and my son was an emergency, so I was just happy he was alive. But in a more controlled situation, I was able to make a request and have it met. 

That’s my goal for talking about this online – it’s not so much to tell people you should have this and your doctor’s terrible for not offering it – but you can advocate for yourself for these things. 

Danielle and her fourth baby, Pax, experiencing skin-to-skin time in the OR

How impactful is Covid during pregnancy?

Certainly Covid is worse during pregnancy than when you’re not pregnant – increasing the risk to both the person who has Covid and to the foetus they’re carrying.

The vaccine is safe in pregnancy, and I would highly recommend getting the vaccine while pregnant. I say that from the position of having taken care of people in the States during the height of the pandemic. I have never seen the amount of devastation to the degree that I did in such a short span of time as when Delta hit, and no one was fully vaccinated.

What’s your most important advice for women?

I’d encourage everyone to learn as much as they can about the processes because the more you know, the more you know to ask questions. I want people to find their voice and be comfortable talking to their doctor or their midwife.

Dr Danielle Jones (OBGYN) works at Southland Hospital, and discusses women’s health, pregnancy and parenting across her social media platforms. @mamadoctorjones

Sleep safe, my baby

SIDS and Kids New Zealand is dedicated to saving the lives of babies and children during pregnancy, birth, infancy and childhood and supporting bereaved families. The organisation delivers on its vision through world-class research, evidence-based education and bereavement support, and advocacy.

Remind everyone who cares for your child:

  • Sleep baby on their back
  • Keep head and face uncovered
  • Keep baby smoke-free before and after birth
  • Safe sleeping environment night and day
  • Sleep baby in a safe cot in parents’ room.

SIDS and Kids provides a range of safe sleeping education and support services as well as a national 24-hour sudden infant death helpline. 

0800 164 455 / sidsandkids.org.nz