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)

  • Krishnan, M., Major, T. J., Topless, R. K., Dewes, O., Yu, L., Thompson, J. M. D., ... Dalbeth, N. (2018). Discordant association of the CREBRF rs373863828 A allele with increased BMI and protection from type 2 diabetes in Māori and Pacific (Polynesian) people living in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Diabetologia, 61 (7), 1603-1613. 10.1007/s00125-018-4623-1
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ofa Dewes, John Thompson, Nicola Dalbeth, Andrew Shelling, Rinki Murphy, Mohanraj Krishnan
  • Grieger, J. A., Grzeskowiak, L. E., Bianco-Miotto, T., Jankovic-Karasoulos, T., Moran, L. J., Wilson, R. L., ... Kenny, L. C. (2018). Pre-pregnancy fast food and fruit intake is associated with time to pregnancy. Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 33 (6), 1063-1070. 10.1093/humrep/dey079
  • Vieira, M. C., McCowan, L. M. E., North, R. A., Myers, J. E., Walker, J. J., Baker, P. N., ... Pasupathy, D. (2018). Antenatal risk factors associated with neonatal morbidity in large-for-gestational-age infants: an international prospective cohort study. Acta obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica10.1111/aogs.13362
  • Li, M., Thompson, J. M. D., Cronin, R. S., Gordon, A., Raynes-Greenow, C., Heazell, A. E. P., ... Mitchell, E. A. (2018). The Collaborative IPD of Sleep and Stillbirth (Cribss): is maternal going-to-sleep position a risk factor for late stillbirth and does maternal sleep position interact with fetal vulnerability? An individual participant data meta-analysis study protocol. BMJ open, 8 (4)10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020323
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: John Thompson, Edwin Mitchell
  • Okesene-Gafa, K. A. M., Brown, J., Mccowan, L., & Crowther, C. A. (2018). Probiotics for treating women with gestational diabetes for improving maternal and fetal health and well-being. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2018 (2).10.1002/14651858.CD012970
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Karaponi Okesene-Gafa, Caroline Crowther
  • Culliney, K., McCowan, L. M. E., Okesene-Gafa, K., Murphy, R., Rowan, J., Taylor, R. S., ... HUMBA Study Group (2018). Accuracy of point-of-care HbA1c testing in pregnant women. The Australian & New Zealand journal of obstetrics & gynaecology10.1111/ajo.12786
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Chris McKinlay, Karaponi Okesene-Gafa, Rinki Murphy, Rennae Taylor
  • Grzeskowiak, L. E., Smithers, L. G., Grieger, J. A., Bianco-Miotto, T., Leemaqz, S. Y., Clifton, V. L., ... Myers, J. (2018). Asthma treatment impacts time to pregnancy: evidence from the international SCOPE study. The European respiratory journal, 51 (2).10.1183/13993003.02035-2017
  • McCowan, L. M., Figueras, F., & Anderson, N. H. (2018). Evidence-based national guidelines for the management of suspected fetal growth restriction: comparison, consensus, and controversy. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 218 (2S), S855-S868. 10.1016/j.ajog.2017.12.004
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ngaire Anderson


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 12, Room 12057
New Zealand

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