Royal Women's Hospital Department of Maternal Fetal Medicine Pregnancy Research Centre

Group Leader Email Number Webpage
Prof Shaun Brennecke +61 3 8345 3703 View page

Research Overview

The blueprint for a healthy life is largely determined by events which take place in the uterus before we are even born. The relationship between a mother and her baby is quite literally, therefore, a partnership for life.

Although most women enjoy a trouble free pregnancy and delivery, some women may experience complications, such as miscarriage, preterm labour, high blood pressure, poor fetal growth, diabetes and difficult or prolonged labour. Unfortunately, we do not always know what causes many of these complications or how best to prevent or treat them. These common pregnancy complications create significant emotional, social and economic costs within our community. Any decline in the incidence or severity of these pregnancy complications significantly reduces these costs. The principal beneficiaries of the outcomes of the research we undertake are mothers and their babies.

The focus of the Pregnancy Research Centre (PRC) is to better understand the causes of pregnancy disorders which compromise the health of mothers and their babies. We are extremely fortunate to be able to undertake our work in a maternity hospital of the size of the Women’s, which cares for more than 7,000 pregnant women each year. Our work on human pregnancy and its disorders ranges from basic biomedical laboratory research through to clinical studies, treatment trials and public health initiatives. Our mission is “to apply contemporary research techniques to the investigation of clinically important problems in maternal and fetal medicine and related fields, promulgate the findings of such investigations and to use such findings as the basis for evidence-based clinical practice”.



  • Assoc Prof Edward Araujo Junior, Federal University of Sao Paulo
  • Prof Christine East, Monash University
  • Dr Daniel Heath, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Rosemary Keogh, National Heart Foundation
  • Dr Ursula Manuelpillai, Monash University
  • Assoc Prof Wellington P Martins, University of São Paulo
  • Prof Eric Moses, University of Western Australia
  • Dr Padma Murthi, Monash Hospital
  • Prof Helena Parkington, Monash University
  • Assoc Prof Joanne Said, Sunshine Hospital
  • Clinical Assoc Prof Fabricio da Silva Costa, Monash Ultrasound


The research actiivities of the Pregnancy Research Centre (PRC) are funded by a variety of intramural and extramural sources. Since its formation in 1993, the PRC has secured over $15 Million in peer-reviewed, competetive national and international funding sources, such as, NHMRC, and NIH.

Research Publications


Zeisler H, Chantraine F, Vatish M, Staff AC, Sennström M, Olovsson M, Brennecke SP, Stepan H, Allegranza D, Dilba P, Schoedl M, Hund M, Verlohren S. Predictive Value of the sFlt-1:PlGF Ratio in Women with Suspected Preeclampsia. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2016; 374(1):13-22
Stepan H, Herraiz I, Schlembach D, Verlohren S, Brennecke S, Chantraine F, Klein E, Lapaire O, Llurba E, Ramoni A, Vatish M, Wertaschnigg D, Galindo A. Implementation of the sFlt-1/PlGF ratio for prediction and diagnosis of preeclampsia in singleton pregnancies: guidance for clinical practice. Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2015; 45(3):241-246
Huang Q, Liu L, Hu B, Di X, Brennecke SP, Liu H. Decreased seizure threshold in an Eclampsia-like model induced in pregnant rats with Lipopolysaccharide and Pentylenetetrazol treatments. 2014; PlosOne. 9(2):e89333
Johnson MP, Brennecke SP, East CE, Dyer TD, Roten LT, Proffitt JM, Melton PE, Fenstad MH, Aalto-Viljakainen Tia, Mäkikallio K, Heinonen S, Kajantie E, Kere J, and Laivuori H for the FINNPEC Study Group, Austgulen R, Blangero J, Moses EK. Genetic dissection of the preeclampsia susceptibility locus on chromosome 2q22 reveals shared novel risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Molecular Human Reproduction. 2013; 9(7):423-37.
Johnson MP, Brennecke SP, East CE, Göring HHH, Kent JW Jr, Dyer TD, Said JM, Roten LT, Iversen A-C, Abraham LJ, Heinonen S, Kajantie E, Kere J, Kivinen K, Pouta A and Laivuori H for the FINNPEC Study Group, Austgulen R, Blangero J, Moses EK. Genome-wide association scan identifies a risk locus for preeclampsia on 2q14, near the Inhibin, beta B gene. PLoS ONE. 2012; 7(3):e33666.

Labour & Delivery

Parkington HC, Stevenson J, Tonta MA, Paul J, Butler T, Maiti K, Chan EC, Sheehan PM, Brennecke SP, Coleman HA, Smith R. Diminished hERG K(+) channel activity facilitates strong human labour contractions but is dysregulated in obese women. Nature Communications 2014; 5:4108.
Wang R, Sheehan PM, Brennecke SP. Changes in myometrial expression of progesterone receptor membrane components 1 and 2 are associated with human parturition at term. Reproduction, Fertility, and Development. 2014 Sep 30. doi: 10.1071/RD13430. [Epub ahead of print]
Parkington HC, Tonta MA, Brennecke SP, Coleman HA. Contractile activity, membrane potential, and cytoplasmic calcium in human uterine smooth muscle in the third trimester of pregnancy and during labor. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1999; 181, 6, 1445-1451.
Parkington HC, Tonta MA, Davies NK, Brennecke SP, Coleman HA. Hyperpolarization and slowing of the rate of contraction in human uterus in pregnancy by prostaglandins E2 and F2a: involvement of the Na+ pump. Journal of Physiology, 1999; 514, 1, 229-243.

Preterm Labour

Nicolaides KH, Syngelaki A, Poon LC, Picciarelli G, Tul N, Zamprakou A, Skyfta E, Parra-Cordero M, Palma-Dias R, Rodriguez Calvo J. A Randomized Trial of a Cervical Pessary to Prevent Preterm Singleton Birth. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2016; 374(11):1044-1052.
Georgiou HM, Di Quinzio MK, Permezel M, Brennecke SP. Predicting Preterm Labour: Current Status and Future Prospects. Dis Markers. 2015:435014. doi: 10.1155/2015/435014
Ni Chuileannain F, Bell R, Brennecke SP. Cervicovaginal fetal fibronectin testing in threatened pre-term labour — translating research findings into clinical practice. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 1998; 38, 4, 399-402.
Parker J, Bell RJ, Brennecke SP. Fetal fibronectin in the cervicovaginal fluid of women with threatened preterm labour as a predictor of delivery before 34 weeks’ gestation.  Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 1995; 35, 257-261.

Placental Stem Cells

Kusuma G, Murthi P, Kalionis B. Function and Pathologies of the Human Placenta in “Placenta: The Tree of Life” Parolini O ed., Taylor and Francis pub. 2016:13-38 CRC Press 2016 ISBN 97814987002694.
Kusuma GD, Menicanin D, Gronthos S, Manuelpillai U, Abumaree MH, Pertile MD, Brennecke SP and Kalionis B. Ectopic Bone Formation by Mesenchymal Stem Cells Derived from Human Term Placenta and the Decidua. PLoS One. 2015; 10(10):e0141246.
Qin SQ, Kusuma GD, Al-Sowayan B, Pace RA, Isenmann SB, Pertile MD, Gronthos S, Abumaree MH, Brennecke SP and Kalionis B. Establishment and characterization of fetal and maternal mesenchymal stem/stromal cell lines from the human term placenta Placenta 2016; 39: 134-146.
Kusuma GD, Manuelpillai U, Abumaree M, Pertile MD, Brennecke SP and Kalionis B. Mesenchymal stem cells reside in a vascular niche in the decidua basalis, and are absent in remodelled spiral arterioles Placenta 2015; 36 312-321.
Castrechini NM, Murthi P, Qin S, Kusuma GD, Wilton L, Abumaree M, Gronthos S, Zannettino A, Gude NM, Brennecke SP and Kalionis B. Decidua parietalis-derived mesenchymal stromal cells reside in a vascular niche within the choriodecidua, Reproductive Sciences. 2012; 19:1302- 1314.

Fetal Welfare Assessment

East C E, Leader L R,Sheehan P, Henshall N E, Colditz P B, Lau R. Intrapartum fetal scalp lactate sampling for fetal assessment in the presence of a non-reassuring fetal heart rate trace. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 5.Art. No.: CD006174. DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD006174.pub3
East CE, Brennecke SP, Chan FY, King JF, Beller EM. Clinicians’ evaluations of fetal oximetry sensor placement in a multicentre randomised trial (the FOREMEOST trial). Australian & New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. 2006; 46:234 - 239.
EEast CE, Brennecke SP, King JF, Chan FY, Colditz PB; FOREMOST Study Group. The effect of intrapartum fetal pulse oximetry, in the presence of a nonreassuring fetal heart rate pattern, on operative delivery rates: a multicenter, randomized, controlled trial (the FOREMOST trial). American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2006; 194(3):606, e 1-16.
East CE, Chan FY, Brennecke SP, King JF, Colditz PB. Women’s evaluations of their experience in a multicenter randomised controlled trial of intrapartum fetal pulse oximetry (the FOREMOST trial). Birth. 2006; 33:101-109.

East CE, Gascoigne MB, Doran CM, Brennecke SP, King JF, Colditz PB. A cost-effectiveness analysis of the intrapartum fetal pulse oximetry multicentre randomised controlled trial (the FOREMOST trial). BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. 2006; 113(9):1080-7