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)

  • Andraweera, P., Dekker, G., Leemaqz, S., McCowan, L., Myers, J., Kenny, L., ... Roberts, C. (2018). MATERNAL BIRTHWEIGHT, EARLY PREGNANCY BODY MASS INDEX AND RISK OF PREGNANCY COMPLICATIONS. Paper presented at Meeting of the International-Federation-of-Placenta-Associations (IFPA), Tokyo, JAPAN. 21 September - 24 September 2018. PLACENTA. (pp. 1).
  • Andraweera, P., Roberts, C., Leemaqz, S., McCowan, L., Myers, J., Kenny, L., ... Dekker, G. (2018). THE DURATION OF SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP AND ITS EFFECTS ON ADVERSE PREGNANCY OUTCOMES. Paper presented at Meeting of the International-Federation-of-Placenta-Associations (IFPA), Tokyo, JAPAN. 21 September - 24 September 2018. PLACENTA. (pp. 2).
  • Grzeskowiak, L. E., Smithers, L. G., Grieger, J. A., Bianco-Miotto, T., Leemaqz, S. Y., Clifton, V. L., ... Myers, J. (2018). Asthma associated with infertility-but not among women taking regular asthma preventers: Evidence from the international scope study. PHARMACOEPIDEMIOLOGY AND DRUG SAFETY. (pp. 2).
  • Troisi, J., Sarno, L., Richards, S. M., Symes, S. J., Adair, D. C., Scala, G., ... Martinelli, P. (2018). Noninvasive Screening of Fetal Anomalies: The Serum Metabolomic Way. Paper presented at 58th Annual Teratology Society Meeting Pages: 663-822. Birth Defects Research. (pp. 1). Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rennae Taylor
  • Anderson, N., de Laat, M., von Dadelszen, P., & McCowan, L. M. E. (2018). Low PlGF and ultrasound defined fetal growth restriction in late-onset small-for-gestational age pregnancies. Paper presented at Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ) Annual Scientific Congress 2018, Auckland, New Zealand. 25 March - 28 March 2018. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ngaire Anderson
  • Krishnan, M., Shelling, A. N., Wall, C. R., Mitchell, E. A., Murphy, R., McCowan, L. M., ... Children of SCOPE Study Group (2018). Gene-by-activity interactions on obesity traits of 6-year-old New Zealand European children: A children of SCOPE study. Pediatric Exercise Science, 30 (1), 71-82. 10.1123/pes.2017-0077
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: John Thompson, Andrew Shelling, Clare Wall, Rinki Murphy, Wayne Cutfield, Rennae Taylor
  • Derraik, J. G. B., Chiavaroli, V., Hopkins, S. A., Biggs, J. B., Rodrigues, R. O., Seneviratne, S. N., ... Hofman, P. L. (2018). Greater Maternal BMI Early in Pregnancy and Excessive Gestational Weight Gain Are Independently Associated with Adverse Health Outcomes in the Offspring at Age 7 Years. HORMONE RESEARCH IN PAEDIATRICS. (pp. 1).
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jose Derraik, Janene Biggs, Wayne Cutfield, Paul Hofman
  • Bradford, B. F., Thompson, J. M., Heazell, A. E., McCowan, L. M., & McKinlay, C. J. (2018). Understanding the associations and significance of fetal movements in overweight or obese pregnant women: A systematic review. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 97 (1), 13-24. 10.1111/aogs.13250
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: John Thompson, Billie Bradford


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 12, Room 12057
New Zealand

Web links