Mercy Hospital Perinatal Research Group


Professor Sue Walker, Director/Sheila Handbury Chair of Maternal Fetal Medicine. Research Theme: Fetal growth restriction/ Perinatal sleep research
Dr Alexis Shub, Research Clinician.  Research Theme: Obesity/ Diabetes
Dr Elizabeth McCarthy, Research Clinician. Research Theme: Obesity and  Pregnancy Loss
Dr Lisa Hui, Research Clinician. Research Theme: Cell free nucleic acids in perinatal medicine; Infectious Diseases in Pregnancy
Dr Alison Fung, Research Clinician. Research Theme: Perinatal sleep research
Ms Nadia Bardien, Research Clinician. Research Theme: Fetal Growth and Well being
Ms Gabrielle Pell, Research Midwife
Ms Anna Middleton, Research Midwife
Ms Val Kyritsis, Research Midwife
Dr Teresa MacDonald, Research Clinician, PhD scholar. Research Theme: Fetal Growth Restriction and Stillbirth


  1. Perinatal Sleep Research: Institute for Breathing and Sleep, Austin Health

    Dr Mark Howard, Sleep Physician Clinical Researcher

    Ms Danielle Wilson, sleep scientist, PhD scholar

    Sleep disordered breathing and obstructive sleep apnoea are more common in pregnancy, and are increased further among women who are obese. Given that over half the antenatal population are overweight or obese, research in this area may help unravel the links between obesity and hypertension in pregnancy,problems with fetal growth, and stillbirth.

  2. Tygerberg Hospital, University of Stellenbosch, CapeTown, South Africa

    Dr Cathy Cluver, Research clinician

    Dr Cluver undertook fellowship at Mercy Hospital for Women in 2013, and has returned to CapeTown to run the Pre-eclamspia Intervention with Esomeprazole trial.

    Close links continue with teaching and research between our institutions.

  3. Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

    Professor Jane Halliday

    Dr Lisa Hui is one of the international leaders in the area of non invasive prenatal testing, prenatal testing trends and cell free nucleic acids as biomarkers of health and disease. This research has arisen from a strong collaborative partnership with Professor Jane Halliday at MCRI

  4. Contribution to National and International Trials

    The Mercy Hospital Perinatal Research Group provides obstetric leadership for the following national and international externally funded major obstetric trials: the Australian Placental Transfusion Study, the EPPI Trial – Enoxaparin for the Prevention of Preeclampsia and Intrauterine growth restriction, and the MAGENTA trial: Magnesium Sulphate at 30-34 weeks’ gestational age: neuroprotection trial, and the STRIDER Trial: a randomised controlled trial of Sildenafil in Dismal Prognosis Early-onset Intrauterine Growth Restriction.

  5. LaTrobe University

    Collaborations in the areas of fetal growth restriction, improved fetal surevillance in high risk pregnancy

  6. Deakin University

    Collaborations in the areas of diabetes, obesity and metabolic disorders in pregnancy

  7. Austin Health

    Collaborations through research in high risk pregnancy, including infectious diseases, cardiology, transplant medicine, diabetes and hypertension


Our team is CI on the following NHMRC grants:

#1065854: Improving the prediction and detection of contributors to term stillbirth. Walker SP, Tong S, Whitehead CL. NHMRC Project Grant (2014-2016): $551,111

#1059993:  Genomics and Pregnancy (GAP study). Halliday J, Walker et al. NHMRC project grant (2014-2016): $504,251

NHMRC Early Career Fellowship: Lisa Hui (2016-2019)

Other funding:

We have received philanthropic grants from many funding bodies, including the Norman Beischer Medical Research Foundation, RANZCOG, Mercy Health Foundation, Stillbirth Foundation, the Kilvington Trust and Mr Geoff Handbury AO.

Research Publications

Research Themes

  1. Improving Detection of Fetal Growth Restriction/ Stillbirth Prevention/ Pregnancy Loss
    1. Whitehead C, Teh WT, Walker SP, Leung C, Mendis S, Larmour L, Tong S. Quantifying circulating hypoxia-induced RNA transcripts in maternal blood to determine in utero fetal hypoxic status. BMC Med 2013 Dec 9;11: 256.
    2. Whitehead CL, Walker SP, Ye L, Mendis S, Kaitu'u-Lino TJ, Lappas M, Tong S. Placental specific mRNA in the maternal circulation are globally dysregulated in pregnancies complicated by fetal growth restriction. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2013 Mar; 98(3): E429-36.
    3. McCarthy EA, Walker SP. International fetal growth standards: one size fits all. Lancet 2014; 6; 384(9946): 835-6.
    4. MacDonald TM, McCarthy EA, Walker SP. Shining light in dark corners: diagnosis and management of late-onset fetal growth restriction. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol 2015 Feb;55(1): 3-10.
    5. McCarthy EA, Tong S. Diagnosing a miscarriage.  BMJ 2015 Sep 23
    6. Bardien N, Whitehead C, Tong S, Ugoni A, MacDonald S, Walker SP. Placental insufficiency in fetuses that slow in growth but are born appropriate for gestational age: a prospective longitudinal study. PLoS One 2016 Jan 5;11(1):
    7. Whitehead CL, Mcnamara H, Walker SP, Alexiadis M, Fuller P, Vickers DK, Hannan NJ, Hastie R, Tuohey L, Kaitu'u-Lino TJ, Tong S. Identifying late onset fetal growth restriction by measuring circulating placental RNA in the maternal blood at 28 weeks gestation. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2016 Feb 12.
    8. Flenady V, Wojcieszek AM, Middleton P, Ellwood et al. Stillbirths: recall to action in high-income countries.Lancet Ending Preventable Stillbirths study group; Lancet Stillbirths In High-Income Countries Investigator Group. Lancet 2016 Feb 13.
  2. Cell free nucleic acids in perinatal medicine
    1. Hui L1, Teoh M, da Silva Costa F, Ramsay P, Palma-Dias R, Richmond Z, Piessens S, Walker S. Clinical implementation of cell-free DNA based aneuploidy screening: perspectives from a national audit. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol 2014 Oct 17.
    2. Hui L, Tabor A, Walker SP, Kilby MD. How do we safeguard competence and training in invasive prenatal diagnosis: the elephant in the room. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol 2016 Jan;47(1): 8-13.
    3. MacDonald TM, Kaitu'u-Lino TJ, Walker SP, Dane KL, Lockie EB, Tong S, Whitehead CL, Hui L. Variable effect of maternal oral glucose load on circulating cell-free placental mRNAs.  J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med 2016 Apr 12:1-12.
    4. Hui L. Cell-free DNA testing for 22q11.2 deletion syndrome: appraising the viability, effectiveness and appropriateness of screening. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol 2016 Feb;47(2): 137-41.
    5. Edlow AG, Hui L, Wick HC, Fried I, Bianchi DW. Assessing the fetal effects of maternal obesity via transcriptomic analysis of cord blood: a prospective case-control study.  BJOG 2016 Jan;123(2): 180-9.
  3. Sleep Disordered Breathing in Pregnancy
    1. Fung AM, Wilson DL, Lappas M, Howard M, Barnes M, O'Donoghue F, Tong S, Esdale H, Fleming G, Walker SP Effects of maternal obstructive sleep apnoea on fetal growth: a prospective cohort study. PLoS One 2013 Jul 24;8(7)
    2. Wilson DL, Walker SP, Fung AM, O'Donoghue F, Barnes M, Howard M.  Can we predict sleep-disordered breathing in pregnancy? The clinical utility of symptoms. J Sleep Res 2013 Jun 10
    3. Whitehead C, Tong S, Wilson D, Howard M, Walker SP.  Treatment of early-onset preeclampsia with continuous positive airway pressure. Obstet Gynecol 2015 May;125(5): 1106-9.
  4. Diabetes and Obesity
    1. Walker SP, Lim R, Lappas M. Inverse relationship between gestational weight gain and glucose uptake in human placenta from female fetuses. Paediatric Obesity 2014 Jun;9(3): e73-6.
    2. Willcox JC, Campbell KJ, McCarthy EA, Lappas M, Ball K, Crawford D, Shub A, Wilkinson SA. Gestational weight gain information: seeking and sources among pregnant women. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 2015 Aug 7;15: 164.
    3. Rogozinska E, D'Amico MI, Khan KS et al. Development of composite outcomes for individual patient data (IPD) meta-analysis on the effects of diet and lifestyle in pregnancy: a Delphi survey. International Weight Management in Pregnancy (iWIP) Collaborative Group. BJOG 2016 Jan;123(2): 190-8.
    4. McCarthy EA, Lappas M, Ugoni A, Walker SP, Shub A, et al Self-weighing and simple dietary advice for overweight and obese pregnant women to reduce obstetric complications without impact on quality of life: a randomised controlled trial. BJOG 2016 Feb 14:
    5. Lappas M, Jinks D, Shub A, Willcox JC, Georgiou HM, Permezel M. Postpartum IGF-I and IGFBP-2 levels are prospectively associated with the development of type 2 diabetes in women with previous gestational diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Metab 2016 Jul 4;
  5. Maternal Fetal Medicine
    1. Hui L, Wood G. Perinatal outcome after maternal primary cytomegalovirus infection in the first trimester: a practical update and counseling aid. Prenat Diagn 2015 Jan;35(1): 1-7. doi: 10.1002/pd.4497. Epub 2014 Oct 7.
    2. Cluver CA, Walker SP, Mol B, Tong S. A double blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of esomeprazole to treat early onset pre-eclampsia (PIE Trial): study protocol.  BMJ Open 2015 Oct 28;5(10).
    3. Visvanathan K, Dusheiko G, Giles M, Wong ML, Phung N, Walker S, Le S, Lim SG, Gane E, Ngu M, Hardikar W, Cowie B, Bowden S, Strasser S, Levy M, Sasaduesz J. Managing hepatitis B virus in pregnancy, prevention, prophylaxis, treatment and follow-up: position paper produced by Australian, United Kingdom and New Zealand Key Opinion Leaders.  Gut 2016 Feb;65(2): 340-50.
    4. Shub A, Walker SP. Planned early delivery versus expectant management for monoamniotic twins. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015 Apr 23;(4)
    5. McCarthy EA, Carins TA, Hannigan Y, Bardien N, Shub A, Walker SP. Effectiveness and safety of 1 vs 4 h blood pressure profile with clinical and laboratory assessment for the exclusion of gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia: a retrospective study in a university affiliated maternity hospital. BMJ Open. 2015 Nov 18;5(11)
    6. Edwards AG, Teoh M, Hodges RJ, Palma-Dias R, Cole SA, Fung AM, Walker SP.Balancing Patient Access to Fetoscopic Laser Photocoagulation for Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome With Maintaining Procedural Competence: Are Collaborative Services Part of the Solution? Twin Res Hum Genet 2016 Jun;19(3): 276-84.

Research Projects

This Research Group doesn't currently have any projects

Faculty Research Themes

Child Health

School Research Themes

Child Health in Medicine, Women's Health

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact Head of Research Group Professor Sue Walker

Department / Centre

Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Unit / Centre

Mercy Hospital Perinatal Research Group

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