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)

  • Okesene-Gafa, K., Li, M., Taylor, R. S., Thompson, J. M. D., Crowther, C. A., McKinlay, C. J. D., & McCowan, L. M. E. (2016). A randomised controlled demonstration trial of multifaceted nutritional intervention and or probiotics: the healthy mums and babies (HUMBA) trial. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 1610.1186/s12884-016-1149-8
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Chris McKinlay, Caroline Crowther, John Thompson, Karaponi Okesene-Gafa
  • McCowan, L., McKinlay, C. J., & Poston, L. (2016). Interpregnancy weight gain—a modifiable cause of stillbirth?. The Lancet, 387 (10018), 508-510. 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01089-2
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Chris McKinlay
  • McCarthy, F. P., Moss-Morris, R., Khashan, A. S., North, R. A., Baker, P. N., Dekker, G., ... Kenny, L. C. (2015). Previous pregnancy loss has an adverse impact on distress and behaviour in subsequent pregnancy. BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 122 (13), 1757-1764. 10.1111/1471-0528.13233
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Philip Baker
  • Andraweera, P. H., Gatford, K. L., Dekker, G. A., Leemaqz, S., Russell, D., Thompson, S. D., ... Roberts, C. T. (2015). Insulin family polymorphisms in pregnancies complicated by small for gestational age infants. Molecular human reproduction, 21 (9), 745-752. 10.1093/molehr/gav031
  • Soh, M. C., Nelson-Piercy, C., Dib, F., Westgren, M., McCowan, L., & Pasupathy, D. (2015). Brief Report: Association Between Pregnancy Outcomes and Death From Cardiovascular Causes in Parous Women With Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: A Study Using Swedish Population Registries. Arthritis & rheumatology (Hoboken, N.J.), 67 (9), 2376-2382. 10.1002/art.39218
  • McCowan, L., Anderson, N., & Sadler, L. (2015). Re: Diagnosis and management of late-onset fetal growth restriction. The Australian & New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 55 (4), 405-406. 10.1111/ajo.12364
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Lynn Sadler, Ngaire Anderson
  • O'Keeffe LM, Kearney, P. M., McCarthy, F. P., Khashan, A. S., Greene, R. A., North, R. A., ... Dekker, G. A. (2015). Prevalence and predictors of alcohol use during pregnancy: findings from international multicentre cohort studies. BMJ open, 5 (7)10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006323
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Philip Baker
  • McCowan, L., & Anderson, N. (2015). Customising fetal growth: the New Zealand experience. BJOG-AN INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF OBSTETRICS AND GYNAECOLOGY, 122, 394-395.


Contact details

Primary location

Level 12, Room 12057
New Zealand

Web links