What is the Apgar score?

Whether your baby is born in hospital or if you had a home birth, the doctor or midwife will give your baby their full attention to ensure that they are satisfied that their breathing is well established.

Any problems should be identified quickly to ensure that the necessary treatment required will begin as soon as possible.

At one, five and ten minute intervals after birth, your baby will be given tests to determine that they are healthy  and fit to enter the world without any further medical assistance. These tests are scored on the Apgar scale.

Your newborn is given a score of 0, 1 or 2 for each category with 2 being the highest score.  The scores are totalled and if the total score reaches 7 or more, they are in good condition.  If they score between 4 and 6, they may need some assistance such as massaging and under 4 they may receive resuscitation.  Once they are re-tested, they may score much higher.  Premature or caesarean delivered babies sometimes have a lower than normal score at one minute.  The 5 minute score will determine if they are responding to any form of assistance or how they are progressing.

Five factors are used to evaluate the baby’s condition and to remember these tests, use the individual letters in the name APGAR.

  1. Activity (muscle tone referring to movement)
  2. Pulse ( referring to the heart rate and strength)
  3. Grimace response (reflexes and alertness)
  4. Appearance (skin colour; shows baby’s lungs are working to oxygenate the blood)
  5. Respiration (breathing rate and effort shows the health of the lungs)

This test was devised in the 1950’s by anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar hence the name.  The test is now used worldwide in all modern hospitals.   It will determine all your newborn’s needs so that you can rest easy in the knowledge that your baby is healthy and normal.  Otherwise if the test was underscored, the medical treatment necessary will be administered immediately.

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