Apgar score…You’ve probably heard of it, but many parents have no idea what it means or what it measures.
Apgar is a test created in the 1950s by an obstetric anesthesiologist named Dr. Virginia Apgar, who wanted to measure a baby’s condition immediately after birth when the mother had received general anesthesia. The test measures five things:
Each of the five sections of the test is measured from 0-2, with the perfect score being a 2 in each section. A normal score is anywhere from 7 to 10 and a fairly low score is 4-6. A critical low score is less than 3 and means medical intervention is likely needed.
Each of the sections is measured using the following criteria:
- Appearance: A perfect score – a 2 – means the baby is completely pink all over their body. A score of 1 means the baby is pink in most sections but pale or blue in their hands or feet. A score of zero means the baby is completely pale or blue.
- Pulse: A pulse greater than 100 beats per minute is a 2 point score, with a 1 point score being a pulse less than 100. No pulse means a score of zero.
- Grimace: If the baby cries with easy stimulation, he or she receives a score of 2 points. If more rugged stimulation is needed, a score of 1 is given. Not crying with excessive, rugged stimulation receives a score of zero.
- Activity: If the baby resists when their arms and legs are straightened out and flexed, they are given a score of 2. If there is some flexion, a score of 1 is given. If the baby can be straightened, flexed and moved with no resistance at all, the baby receives a zero.
- Respiration: If the baby has a strong, throaty cry, they get a score of 2. A weak cry receives a score of 1, and no cry at all receives a score of zero.
The Apgar test is administered at least twice, at one minute post-birth and again at five minutes post-birth. If the total score is below 7, the test is given again at 10, 15, and 30 minutes post-birth.
The test was never created to diagnose or predict a medical condition or issue, but a persistently low Apgar score of less than 3 indicates a greater probability of neurological damage and could signify cerebral palsy.