Professor Lesley Margaret Elizabeth McCowan



Professor Lesley McCowan is a sub-specialist in Maternal Fetal Medicine who became Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 2009. In 2011 she received a New Year’s Honour (Officer of New Zealand Order of Merit) for services to health.

Her clinical work is in high risk pregnancy especially preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction, and she chairs the National Women’s Hospital perinatal mortality review process. She was a founding member of the National Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee which reports on perinatal mortality nationally. Lesley is also the secretary of the New Zealand Committee of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Research | Current

Main current research projects

In 2004 Lesley McCowan and Professor Robyn North were awarded $6.2 million in funding to undertake the SCOPE study (Screening for pregnancy Endpoints Study) which aims to identify early in pregnancy, nulliparous women, who will later develop preeclampsia, preterm birth or have a growth restricted baby (  The SCOPE study has established one of the best pregnancy databases in the world and a unique high quality pregnancy biobank containing maternal, paternal and baby specimens.  These high quality resources provide ongoing opportunities for research collaborations both within New Zealand and internationally. A follow up study of Auckland SCOPE mothers and children, 6 years post birth, has just been completed.


Another key research interest is the epidemiology of stillbirth, in particular the role of maternal sleep practices.  She is the lead investigator in a multicentre New Zealand case control study which aims to identify modifiable risk factors for late  (>28 weeks’) stillbirth. The long term goal of this research program is to develop preventative strategies for late stillbirth.

Her other major research project is the HUMBA (Healthy Mums and Babies) demonstration trial which will commence recruitment in April 2015. Obese pregnant women from South Auckland will be recruited to this four arm randomized controlled trial, of dietary education accompanied by motivational texting, along with probiotics/placebo. The aims are to reduce excessive pregnancy weight gain, improve maternal glucose metabolism and reduce infant birthweight.

Other Current Research Projects

The effect of maternal sleep on the mother and fetus- physiological studies. 2011-

Investigators: Peter Stone, Ed Mitchell,Rob Doughty,  John Thompson, Alistair Stewart, Andrew Veale, Stuart Jones.

Randomised controlled trial of enoxaparin for women with previous severe preeclampsia or growth restriction (the EPPI trial). 2009 -

Investigators: Katie Groom, Claire McLintock, Larry Chamley, Peter Stone, Lesley McCowan.

Randomised controlled trial of sildenafil for women with severe early onset fetal growth restriction or growth restriction (the STRIDER trial). 2013 -

Investigators: Katie Groom, Phil Baker, Peter Stone, Lesley McCowan.

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus Study of Detection Thresholds (the GEMS study). 2015 -

Investigators: Caroline Crowther, Janet Rowan Lesley McCowan, Chris McKinlay, Julie Brown, Richard Edlin.



Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Anderson, N. H., Gordon, A., Li, M., Cronin, R. S., Thompson, J. M. D., Raynes-Greenow, C. H., ... Wilson, J. (2019). Association of Supine Going-to-Sleep Position in Late Pregnancy With Reduced Birth Weight: A Secondary Analysis of an Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis. JAMA network open, 2 (10)10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.12614
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ed Mitchell, Ngaire Anderson, Minglan Li, John Thompson
  • Dalrymple, K. V., Thompson, J. M. D., Begum, S., Godfrey, K. M., Poston, L., Seed, P. T., ... North, R. (2019). Relationships of maternal body mass index and plasma biomarkers with childhood body mass index and adiposity at 6 years: The Children of SCOPE study. Pediatric obesity, 14 (10)10.1111/ijpo.12537
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ed Mitchell, John Thompson, Clare Wall, Andrew Shelling
  • Derraik, J. G. B., Pasupathy, D., McCowan, L. M. E., Poston, L., Taylor, R. S., Simpson, N. A. B., ... Cutfield, W. S. (2019). Paternal contributions to large-for-gestational-age term babies: findings from a multicenter prospective cohort study. Journal of developmental origins of health and disease, 10 (5), 529-535. 10.1017/s2040174419000035
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: José Derraik, Rennae Taylor, Wayne Cutfield
  • Souza, R. T., McKenzie, E. J., Jones, B., de Seymour, J. V., Thomas, M. M., Zarate, E., ... Villas-Boas, S. (2019). Trace biomarkers associated with spontaneous preterm birth from the maternal serum metabolome of asymptomatic nulliparous women - parallel case-control studies from the SCOPE cohort. Scientific reports, 9 (1)10.1038/s41598-019-50252-7
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Elizabeth McKenzie, Beatrix Jones
  • Bradford, B. F., Cronin, R. S., McCowan, L. M. E., McKinlay, C. J. D., Mitchell, E. A., & Thompson, J. M. D. (2019). Association between maternally perceived quality and pattern of fetal movements and late stillbirth. Scientific reports, 9 (1)10.1038/s41598-019-46323-4
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ed Mitchell, Chris McKinlay, John Thompson
  • Stacey, T., Tennant, P., McCowan, L., Mitchell, E. A., Budd, J., Li, M., ... Heazell, A. (2019). Gestational diabetes and the risk of late stillbirth: a case-control study from England, UK. BJOG : an international journal of obstetrics and gynaecology, 126 (8), 973-982. 10.1111/1471-0528.15659
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: John Thompson, Ed Mitchell, Minglan Li
  • Groom, K. M., McCowan, L. M., Mackay, L. K., Lee, A. C., Gardener, G., Unterscheider, J., ... Reid, R. A. (2019). STRIDER NZAus: a multicentre randomised controlled trial of sildenafil therapy in early-onset fetal growth restriction. BJOG : an international journal of obstetrics and gynaecology, 126 (8), 997-1006. 10.1111/1471-0528.15658
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Katie Groom, Laura Mackay, Arier Lee
  • Naiqiso, S. L. S., Christensen, P. M., Okesene-Gafa, K., & McCowan, L. M. (2019). Gestational weight gain in a multi-ethnic sample of pregnant women from Counties Manukau Health, Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand Medical Journal, 132 (1497), 37-45. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Karaponi Okesene-Gafa


Contact details

Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 507 - Bldg 507
Level 1, Room 1002
New Zealand

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