What is Your Baby’s Apgar Score?

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Dr. Virginia Apgar was an anesthesiologist who developed what came to be known as the Apgar Score. In 1952 Dr. Apgar devised this simple, repeatable method to quickly assess how healthy a newborn child is immediately after birth. Her purpose was to be able to ascertain how obstetric anesthesia affected babies.

The Apgar score was developed mostly to be able to quickly identify the sickest babies so that the medical staff would know which babies needed the greatest attention and which ones would need to be the most closely observed in the nursery.

The Apgar score uses five simple criteria to evaluate a newborn baby. Each is rated between zero and two. Then the five values are summed up in order to obtain the score. The resulting Apgar score will be somewhere between zero and ten, with ten being “the best.”

The five criteria are a mnemonic of the doctor’s last name.

– A – appearance

– P – pulse

– G – grimace

– A – activity

– R – respiration

The test essentially looks at how your baby is doing in these areas: their skin color (from blue to pink), their heart rate, their response to stimulation, their movement and muscle tone, and their breathing effort.

Your baby will be given his or her first test one minute after birth. It will be used as a quick appraisal of your baby’s health. The second test will be given five minutes after birth.

Very few babies get a score of ten, so if your baby “only” gets a nine, don’t start to worry. A nine still indicates that your baby is very healthy.

Of the two, the second test is the most important. Babies could get low scores on the first test and then recover in order to get a better score on the second test. That’s because it takes some babies several minutes to adjust to their new environment.

This is especially true when it comes to their circulatory system. If your baby’s hands or feet are blue their score will drop. And, since doctors look for babies who cry lustily, if your baby is content and quiet their score will also be lower. Sometimes it takes a little while before they’ll “cry lustily.”

Keep in mind, though, that you shouldn’t get carried away if your baby has a high Apgar score. A high score doesn’t mean that they’re going to be accepted into Harvard or MIT. Apgar scores are not tests of their future development.

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