Apgar Score - What is It?
The Apgar score is a test given to baby's soon after birth. This test checks a baby's heart rate, muscle tone, and other signs to see if extra medical or emergency care is needed.
The test is typically given twice: first at 1 minute after birth, and again at 5 minutes after birth. If there are concerns about the baby's condition, the test may be given again.
What Does "Apgar" Mean?
During the test, five things are reviewed for your baby's health. Each is scored on a scale of 0 to 2, with 2 being the best score.
- Appearance (skin color)
- Pulse (heart rate)
- Grimace response (reflexes)
- Activity (muscle tone)
- Respiration (breathing rate and effort)
Someone on your health care team will add the scores for the Apgar score. Babies can score from as little as 0 to as high as 10. Ten is the highest score possible, but few babies get it. That's because most babies' hands and feet remain blue until they have warmed up.
What Does The Score Mean?
A baby who scores a 7 or above on the test is considered in good health. A lower score does not mean that your baby is unhealthy. It means that your baby may need some immediate medical care, such as suctioning of the airways or oxygen to help the baby breathe better. Perfectly healthy babies sometimes have a lower-than-usual score, especially in the first few minutes after birth.
A slightly low score (especially at 1 minute) is common, especially in babies born:
- after a high-risk pregnancy through a C-section
- after a complicated labor and delivery
- premature delivery
At 5 minutes after birth, the test is given again. If a baby's score was low at first and hasn't improved, or there are other concerns, the doctors and nurses will continue any necessary medical care. The baby will be monitored closely.
What If The Score is Low?
Many babies with low scores are perfectly healthy and do just fine after adjusting to life outside the womb. If your doctor or midwife is concerned about your baby's score, he or she will let you know and will explain how your baby is doing, what might be causing problems (if any), and what care is being given.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
This test was not designed to predict a baby's long-term health, behavior, intelligence, personality, or outcome. It was designed to help health care providers tell a newborn's overall physical condition so that they could quickly decide whether the baby needed immediate medical care.
With time to adjust to the new environment and with any necessary medical care, most babies do very well. So rather than focusing on a number, just enjoy your new baby!
Want to find a Doula?
If you are in the Cincinnati or Dayton, Ohio area – look no further. Tamara Kankowski is a certified birth and postpartum doula as well as a childbirth educator. Tamara provides support to families everyday across the region. Tamara has an affordable birth doula package that includes personalized support during your pregnancy, labor and delivery that continues through your first eight weeks postpartum. Contact Tamara today to set up a free consultation!
If you are outside the area, DoulaMatch.net is a great resource to find doulas in your area or go online and see if there are Meet the Doula events near you!