PHOENIX, Ariz. (KGUN) — Dr. Avi Patil, from the UArizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, is an educated man, educated enough to know there are still things he doesn't.
"One of the big gaps in knowledge is around what to expect from the baby after birth."
For more than six years he said, researchers from the UArizona have teamed up with others from Indiana university.
Their goal was to identify potential health problems in children, using hormones from mom's blood.
"By going through this sort of screening, it allows us to better understand who's at risk and who do we need to put more resources toward to make sure we're doing everything possible to keep them and their pregnancy as healthy as possible."
Dr. Patil said they're closer than ever and the work is ever important now during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There's not any clear data that COVID-19 will make a woman more likely to deliver prematurely."
That doesn't mean there isn't still a risk, he said.
Expecting mothers are much more vulnerable to the virus and any illness because their immune system are weaker in pregnancy.
"It's because that baby that's inside, genetically it's half her but it's also half dad and that half dad portion is foreign to mom."
Whether expecting mothers should get the COVID-19 vaccine, Patil said, that's up to them and their doctor.
"Up until now there's never been a good way to truly assess the outcomes for the infant, after birth, from within pregnancies."
There are followup studies to be done and federal guidelines to meet before the method can be applied to mothers everywhere.
The College of Medicine reports one in ten mothers affected by premature births.
Patil said this research will help them and their doctors care for the child when it's finally available.