The Apgar score is a system of measurement used by doctors and midwives to evaluate a baby’s health at birth – this can guide them as to whether the baby needs extra care or monitoring.
What is the Apgar score?
The Apgar score is named after American doctor Virginia Apgar and was first introduced in the 1960s as a standardised way of checking a baby’s health after birth, it is checked at both 1 minute and 5 minutes after birth.
While there is some question over whether or not this check is still sufficient, it is still used in hospitals today.
The test is not designed to test for long-term health, and many babies who score low go on to live long, healthy lives, however the test was designed to help doctors/midwives decide if a baby needs closer monitoring or medical assistance immediately after birth (outside of any obvious signs).
How does the test work?
The test scores the baby out of a possible 10 points, with each of the following characteristics worth a possible 2 points:
A – appearance (skin colour) P – pulse (heart rate) G – grimace response (reflexes and responsiveness) A – activity (muscle tone) R– respiration (breathing)
Doctors look for a score between 7 and 10 to classify the baby as normal, however if the score comes back lower than 7 at 1 minute, and then above it at 5 minutes, that is also considered normal.
The 5-minute test is regarded more importantly than the 1-minute test.
What if my baby still scores low after 5 minutes?
There is no need to panic, the Apgar test is just an indicator and it may mean nothing and your baby just needs a little more time to adjust and they will be monitored more closely to ensure nothing is wrong with them and they may re-perform the test at 7 and 10 minutes.
The test is the first indicator for doctors/midwives that there may be something wrong with your baby, so if your baby does not pass after these subsequent tests, they may order further specialised testing.