What is an Apgar Test?
When your baby is first born he’ll be given what’s known as an “Apgar Test.” In another five minutes, his Apgar score will be calculated once again.
The test is a quick way for doctors to see how your baby is doing now that he’s out of your womb and into the world.
It’s important that you keep your baby’s Apgar score somewhat in perspective.
While the test has been designed by the health care system to determine a baby’s overall physical condition when they are first born, the test is not intended to predict what your baby’s long-term health is going to be.
Very few babies will have a perfect score of 10 since their little bodies are still warming up and their feet and hands will usually be blue for a little while.
At the same time, babies who are in perfect health often have a low Apgar score, particularly in the first few minutes after their birth.
Criteria Used for Apgar Tests
The Apgar test was developed in 1952 by Dr. Virginia Apgar as a way to accurately and quickly access your baby’s health immediately after birth.
Before the Apgar test was fully implemented doctors missed many medical problems at birth, such as breathing difficulties or circulatory problems.
The Apgar test is based on five different criteria:
- Appearance: This is based on the color of your baby’s skin tone. This will vary depending on his circulation. If your baby’s extremities are blue and his body is a pink tone he’ll score a one. If he’s pink all over then his score will be a two.
- Pulse: Refers to your baby’s heart rate. This measures the regularity and strength of his heartbeat. A heart rate lower than 100 beats per minute will score a one. Heartbeat that is more than 100 beats per minute will score a two.
- Grimace: Also known as “reflex.” This tests your baby’s response and reflexes when the sole of his foot is lightly scraped. If there is no reaction to stimulation the score will be zero. A bit of a grimace and reaction will score a one. A score of two is given if your baby responds with a grimace and a cry, cough, or sneeze.
- Activity: This will give your baby’s doctor a good indication of how good is muscle tone is. If your baby is showing a lot of motion he’ll score a two. If he is only showing some muscle tone his score will be a one. No score is given to babies who have floppy and loose muscles.
- Respiration: This will reveal information about the health and maturity of your baby’s lungs. If your baby has irregular or slow breathing he’ll score a one. A score of two is given when he has a strong cry and regular breathing.
As mentioned previously, don’t put too much emphasis on your baby’s Apgar score. Unless your baby has some very obvious problems at birth, even babies with low scores are considered to be perfectly healthy.
The meaning behind Apgar Scores
Babies who have a score of eight or more on their Apgar test are considered to be in good health.
However, just because your baby has a score that is less than eight on his test doesn’t mean that he’s abnormal or unhealthy.
Most likely he needs a bit of immediate attention, such as some extra oxygen or having his airways suctioned so that he can breathe a little easier.
Five minutes after your baby is born the Apgar test will be given to him again and his score will be re-evaluated. If his score is still too low his doctors and nurses will continue to give him medical attention and then closely monitor him. There’s no need to panic.
Some babies are born with conditions that just require a bit more medical care. Still, other babies just need to take a bit of time to adjust to living outside of their mother’s womb.
Most babies who have a low Apgar score do just fine.
Apgar Scores and High-Risk Pregnancies
If you have had a high-risk pregnancy your baby might have an Apgar score that is slightly low, particularly the Apgar test given to him at one minute after birth.
Lower Apgar scores also occur if you’ve given birth by Caesarean-Section or had complicated labor. Premature babies can also have a lower Apgar score and they require extra medical attention and monitoring.
This is because if your baby is born prematurely his lungs will still be immature and his muscle tone will be less than that of a full term baby.
If your doctor or midwife is at all concerned about your baby’s Apgar score they’ll let you know.
They’ll also explain how your newborn baby is doing and what type of care is being given to him. Again, don’t panic if your baby’s score is low.
The majority of babies with low scores will have no health problems whatsoever.