Professor Lesley McCowan

Professor McCowan's research interests include pregnancy and early life with a major focus on prevention of stillbirth and childhood obesity.

Prof McCowan is an obstetrician and head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Auckland. Her current major research interest is identification of modifiable risk factors that may lead to prevention of stillbirth.

Her team led the Cure Kids funded “Auckland Stillbirth Study” that first identified maternal going-to-sleep position was a risk factor for stillbirth. She also leads the Cure Kids funded “New Zealand Multi-Centre Stillbirth Study” which focusses on maternal sleep practices and how they contribute to the risk of late stillbirth. These studies identified that women who went to sleep lying on their back in the last three months of pregnancy had an increased risk of having a stillbirth. The good news is this risk is modifiable as women can change their going-to-sleep position.

Public health education recommending that women settle to sleep on their side in the last three months of pregnancy has potential to reduce stillbirth in NZ by about 9% (16 babies each year). Her other major research interest is improving health outcomes in vulnerable pregnant women. She leads the Healthy Mums and Babies (HUMBA) study which is trialling dietary education and probiotics in obese pregnant women who live in South Auckland. The aim is to improve nutrition of the mother and her baby, with the goal of trying to reduce the intergenerational obesity cycle.

Research Projects

The kids who inspire this research


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