Your newborn is only a minute old when they take their first test – and there’s no way to study!
When Baby is finally born, there’s a great deal of activity in your room. Mom is being checked, medical staff is milling about and Baby is given their very first test at just one minute of age. They’re given the same test about 4 minutes later, but parents may still barely notice.
What is this test and why is it so important? Dr. Alzein explains the APGAR Score and what it means – and doesn’t mean – for your very brand-new baby.
The APGAR test has been used since 1953, when it was created Dr. Virginia Apgar. She used her last name as an acronym for five objective signs that are commonly used to assess the overall condition of a newborn. Each sign is given a score of 2 to zero and then scores are added for Baby’s APGAR total.
A is for Appearance, or skin color. Babies earn a 2 when skin, mouth, palms of the hands and soles of the feet are pink. When skin color is healthy all over but hands and feet are bluish, Baby scores a 1. If Baby is very pale, blue or gray, a zero is noted.
P is for Pulse, or heart rate. A normal heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute earns a 2. Below 100 beats gets a 1 and if Baby has no pulse, a zero.
G is for Grimace, or reflex irritability. A score of 2 is earned when Baby reacts strongly to stimulation such as a mild pinch, pulling away, coughing, sneezing, or crying. When there is a facial movement only – a grimace – when Baby is pinched, a score of 1 is tallied. When Baby does not respond to stimulation, a zero is earned.
A is for Activity, or muscle tone. Babies who score a 2 are in active motion, with flexed muscles. Babies score a 1 when there is some tone and flex. A zero is scored when muscle tone is loose and floppy, without activity.
R is for Respiration, or breathing rate and effort. A newborn with a healthy cry and regular strong breathing rate earns a 2. If the rest and fall of Baby’s chest is irregular or slow, they will earn a 1. A zero is scored when there is no breathing.
When scores are added, babies with a 7 or better is accessed as being in good health. Babies who are born after high risk pregnancies, via C-section, prematurely or after a difficult labor and delivery are more likely to have a lower APGAR score.
The APGAR score was created to give medical professionals a quick and easy way to assess the health of your newborn in that moment only. It helps us decide if Baby may need immediate help, such as oxygen or airway suctioning, just after birth.
APGAR scores are not an indication of long-term health, intelligence or capabilities.