April 14, 2024

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Pregnancy Comes Naturally, Not Just When It Is Wanted-  Shakirat Smith-Okonu 

The Medical profession in Nigeria has some people that despite all odds believe that our nation must work and they dig in to deliver their best to their ever demanding patients.  One of them is amiable and hardworking Dr Shakirat Tinuola Smith- Okonu, a daughter of the medical giant, who is still very active, Dr Waheed Smith, Director of the Prestigious, Smith Medical Centre, Lagos.
Many people who have had interactions with Dr Mrs Shakirat Smith- Okonu have very commendable things to say about her. For instance, recently, at the 5th Ibidun Ighodalo Conference for parents-in-waiting, the brain child of the much loved, late Mrs Ibidun Ighodalo, her husband, Pastor Ituah Ighodalo, said this of Dr Shakirat Smith- Okonu, who was one of the Speakers, “I have only just met Dr Smith- Okonu, we went to her Hospital (Randle General Hospital, Surulere, Lagos) to give out gifts. There were some challenges, but Dr Smith-Okonu just flew in there, broke all protocols and made it possible for us to give those present that day and we just said this is a loving lady and we fell in love with her. And when I asked her, please come and speak to us about what you do, she said, I have been spending all day delivering babies, bringing babies to the world. But she was kind enough to come and be part of today’s celebrations.”
Dr Shakirat Smith- Okonu spoke on Prenatal Care at the conference and  shared more her expertise in terms of women’s health, enjoy reading:

Who is Dr Smith Okonu?
I am Dr Shakirat Tinuola Smith-Okonu, a consultant Obsterician and Gynaecologist working at Randle General Hospital,  Mother and Child Centre, Gbaja, Surulere. I have years of experience in providing  specialist Obstetrics and Gynaecology care.
Can you please tell us what is prenatal care?
Prenatal care is a form of preventive health.  It is the care given to a pregnant woman during pregnancy.
Why is prenatal health important?
Prenatal care is important  as it is one of the ways of reducing maternal morbidity and mortality,  perinatal morbidity, and mortality, as well as infant morbidity and mortality. It also helps the woman achieve a positive pregnancy experience.
What are the benefits of prenatal care?
The benefits of prenatal care are numerous. The most important is a reduction in maternal, prenatal, and infant morbidity and mortality.
Educating the pregnant woman on pregnancy symptoms  and what is expected in each trimester.
Education on healthy practices, harmful traditional practices, exercises, diet, sleep positions, complications, and labour/delivery processes.
Reviewing  medications and ensuring one is compliant.
Prevention of complications  like neural tube defects, pre eclampsia.
Early identification  of complications and management and emotional support
How difficult or frustrating is your job especially when you are treating or working on a woman to get her pregnant?
To be honest, dealing with infertility in gynaecology can be tough. It’s like some things are beyond our control, and an element of faith is involved. Sometimes, even without any intervention, a woman can still get pregnant, especially if there are no identified causes for infertility. But the pressure couples face to conceive in our environment is intense. It is heartbreaking when a woman is trying to get pregnant tells you her period came, but on the flip side, delivering the news that she’s finally pregnant is one of the most rewarding part of my job. Pregnancy happens in its own time, not necessarily when we want it, but when it is meant to be. Being there for my patients through their pain and then witnessing their joy is truly indescribable. We do our part by evaluating and supporting the couples, and then we leave the rest to God.
How do you feel when you see your patient get pregnant, especially a patient you have been working on for a very long time?
Seeing my patients go from pain and disappointment to pure joy and happiness is something that words can not fully express. It is a privilege and an honor to be a part of their journey, supporting them through the ups and downs and ultimately witnessing the miracle of life.
During prenatal care do you advice a woman to still have sex with her husband?
Sex is not contraindicted in pregnancy except if there is a need not to. For example, if the placenta is down (placenta previa) or pregnancy is threatened and she’s spotting or if she has drained liquor prematurely.
It is generally advised that the man lubricate and be gentle and assume a comfortable position for the woman.
They can have sex for as long as they want as long as there is no contraindication and the woman is comfortable.
How does it feel working in a government hospital?
Working in a government hospital has been an incredibly challenging yet rewarding experience. When I first transitioned from a private hospital setting, I had certain expectations that unfortunately weren’t fully met. However, as I entered my second year at Randle General Hospital, things started to change for the better. It was during this time that Dr. Funsho Junaid, the head of my department, entrusted me with the role of deputy, allowing us to work closely together and bring about positive transformations within the hospital. This newfound responsibility ignited a sense of aspiration within me, motivating me to strive for greatness. Additionally, I must mention the remarkable contribution of Dr. Olumide Sojinrin, our Medical Director, who has played a pivotal role in enhancing the quality of care and patient satisfaction at the hospital. Their shared vision and dedication to improvement have made this year an absolutely amazing one for me. Now, instead of merely complaining about certain aspects, I find myself in a position, where I can actively make changes and improve the things that matter. It’s a fulfilling journey, and I am grateful for the opportunities and growth it has provided me.
Have you at some point thought of another profession?
To be honest, when I was younger, I actually wanted to be an engineer. But since my dad, who is an amazing obstetrician and gynecologist, wanted me to become a doctor, I decided to change my mind and pursue medicine. Being a daddy’s girl, I listened to him and I truly believe it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I hope that I am making him proud by following in his footsteps.
Is Daddy still alive and what is his name?
Yes he is still very alive and active. Hd
Dr Waheed Smith and he is the Medical Director at Smith Medical Centre.
Can we know your educational and family background?
I had my undergraduate education at Ahfad University for Women, Sudan then proceded to the prestigious Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) for my residency training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology.  I am a fellow of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria  and West African College  of Surgeons.
I am married to an amazing and supportive man. I am also blessed  with three amazing boys.
What were/are  the challenges you face as a medical doctor and as a female doctor?
Being a medical doctor is not just challenging, but also incredibly interesting. It requires a lot of time and it can be quite stressful, especially when you’re a married consultant with children.
Balancing my career and family life is somewhat exhausting, but it is worth it because my husband and children are my top priorities. The good part is that I am not into partying or watching TV, and this allows me to focus on what truly matters to me. I have a strong passion for helping and saving lives and the operating theater is my sanctuary where all my worries fade away. The joy I feel when I see my patients’ happiness is what keeps me going. However, i am also aware that my children need their mom to be present during this phase of their lives, so finding that balance is crucial. Taking care of myself and my family is just as important as pursuing my passion.
We have women who don’t wish to get pregnant due to what they hear or see pregnant women go through, how can you advice such women?
While it is true that each person’s experience is unique, it is essential to remember that just because Mrs. A went through something, it doesn’t mean you will go through the same thing. It is always advisable for patients to vocalize their desires and fears, using their own words to communicate with God. By expressing what you want and don’t want, you’re actively participating in shaping your pregnancy journey. It is important to note that many changes that occur during pregnancy are reversible and tend to resolve after giving birth. If you are worried about the pains of labour, be rest assured that there are effective pain medications available to help manage the discomfort. Additionally, if you have concerns about vaginal delivery, a caesarean section can be considered as an alternative. It is crucial for us to have an open and honest discussion where we can weigh the pros and cons together. However, I understand that the fear of death is a more complex issue. Pregnancy can indeed be a challenging and risky journey, and even with the best medical professionals and facilities, unfortunate outcomes can occur. It is heart-wrenching to witness the loss of a pregnant woman, and the high litigation associated with such cases reflects the pain and complexity involved. While I can strive to allay your fears, explain the causes of maternal deaths, and outline steps we can take to minimize risks, I cannot provide absolute assurance that your pregnancy and delivery will be completely free of complications. There are numerous factors at play, and not all of them are within our control. Our shared goal is to do our utmost to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. It would truly devastate me if I were to encourage a woman who fears death to embark on a pregnancy journey, only for her to experience tragic outcomes.
Let’s come to women with fibroids and are having issues getting pregnant, some are afraid to go for surgery and they believe they can still get pregnant, how do you advise such women?
Fibroids can have an impact on fertility. Fibroids coexisting in pregnancy can also increase the chances of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and preterm rupture of membranes. However, the extent of these effects depends on factors such as the number, location, and size of the fibroids. It is important to note that surgery isn’t always the first treatment option. In some cases, the surgery itself may potentially lead to infertility. That’s why I take an individualised approach with my patients. If the fibroids are small, few in number, not in the lining of the womb, and not causing symptoms like heavy menstrual bleeding or severe pain during periods, I may not recommend fibroid surgery. I believe that it is still possible to conceive with fibroids, as there are other potential causes of infertility that we can investigate and manage accordingly. However, if fibroid surgery is absolutely necessary, I would recommend it and take all necessary precautions to ensure the best outcome.  It is always better to prioritize a successful pregnancy rather than risk a miscarriage or preterm delivery.
Have you for once thought of leaving the country; “japa-ing”?
Whenever I hear that a friend or colleague has left Nigeria, the idea of “jap-ing” pops into my mind. But let me tell you, it’s usually just a temporary thing. You see, I became a doctor for a reason – to help those in need. And do we have a lot of people here in Nigeria who are in need of medical aid, the answer is yes. Now, I understand that not everyone can leave the country, and that’s where I come in. I’ve made the conscious decision to stay back and be there for my fellow Nigerians. I know I am an exceptional doctor, and it would break my heart to deprive my fellow Nigerians of the care they deserve. That’s why I work in a government hospital, so that even those who can’t afford private healthcare can still receive top-notch specialist care. It’s all about ensuring that everyone, regardless of their financial situation, has access to quality medical treatment.
Any thing you would want to add?
I would want to end with a special thank you to my medical officer, Dr Henry Asoro  for constantly pushing me to be better. I am a very shy person and at first I didn’t want to accept the invitation to speak at the conference, but he encouraged me to accept the invitation.
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