apgar score

Apgar Score: What Is It and What Does It Mean?

Apgar score is a test that’s normally given to newborns right after birth. It’s usually done by a doctor or nurse twice: about a minute after birth and then after 5 minutes or so. There are times when childbirth is marked by complications and concerns raised about the baby’s health condition. In this case, the test may be done again, around 10 minutes after birth.

The Meaning of “Apgar” Score

This health system score stands for:

Appearance of the skin color
Pulse i.e. heart rate
Grimace (reflex response)
Activity (the muscle tone)
Respiration (the breathing rate as well as breathing effort)

During the test, five things are usually checked in order to determine the baby’s health. Apgar score range is 0 to 10 with the latter being the highest and best score possible. Only a few babies can attain the 10-point score. This is because most babies are born with blue feet and hands.

Note: There are 5 things which are tested and each has a maximum score of two and a minimum of 0. This leads to a total overall maximum score of 10.

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Understanding the Apgar Score

After childbirth, the doctor or nurse may issue you with your child’s score. This allows all the medical personnel who are present to know how the baby is faring. But for first-time moms, this may seem to be something new. Well, when you hear these numbers, just know that this is one of the numerous assessment tests which the medical personnel will use. Outlined below are Apgar score points and what they mean.

A: Appearance 

Checks the baby’s color after birth.

0: the body is pale all over, blue, or bluish-gray.
1: the body pink with some blueish extremities
2: the baby’s body is pink all over

P: Pulse

Checks the heart rate.

0: nothing
1: not more than 100 heartbeats per minute
2: more than 100 heartbeats per minute

G: Grimace 

Indicates the baby’s response to stimulation for instance, when his/her nose is suctioned.

0: absence of grimace
1: some facial movements
2: a sneeze or cough. This may be accompanied by cries or foot withdrawal from the source of stimulation 

A: Activity

It’s designed to check the muscle tone. 

0: a floppy or limp
1: flexed limbs
2: display of active movement

R: Respiration

It’s used to determine the baby’s breathing rate.

0: undetected breathing effort or rate
1: irregular breathing rate coupled with weak cries
2: good breathing rate that’s accompanied by a strong cry

The reason why Apgar tests are done two times, between 1 and 5 minutes is that the scores are usually low when it’s done at first. After a few minutes, the baby’s body is expected to have undergone changes and new improvements should be detected. In case the score is still very low after 5 minutes then the medical personnel may be forced to reassess it again after 10 minutes. According to medical reports, some of the causes of lower Apgar scores include:

  • Premature childbirth
  • Complicated deliveries
  • Cesarean delivery

Normal Apgar Test and It General Impact

If the score is 7 or more after five minutes, then this is considered reassuring’. A score range of 4 to 6 indicates that the baby is moderately abnormal’. If the score is 3 or less than then this is concerning. This indicates that the baby needs serious intervention and its usually breathing assistance.

apgar score

If you are a new mom, don’t panic if you see the nurses drying off the baby or put him/her in an oxygen mask. You may also be separated from your baby as they are taken to the neonatal intensive care nursery for specialized medical assistance.

The benefit of the Apgar score is to help medical providers understand the baby’s health right after birth. However, if your baby’s score is low, do not panic because this doesn’t determine how healthy they will be in the long run. The score will not determine the baby’s intelligence, behavior, or personality. In fact, most babies end up doing well when they finally adapt to the new environment. Apgar score is simply subjective and this is why doctors or nurses usually carry out several medical assessments in order to perfectly analyze the general condition of the newborn.

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