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What is the Apgar Score?


The Apgar test is performed on all newborn babies to assess their health. Your newborn will be tested on five criteria immediately after birth, and checked a second time at five minutes old. The result of the test is known as the Apgar score.

Developed as a checklist by Dr. Virginia Apgar, the test quickly gives doctors and parents an assessment of baby health. Most babies score well on the test, and a lower score helps determine whether additional care is required for the newborn. Birth weight is not a health indicator on the Apgar score.

The Apgar Test Checklist

This test will assess your newborn for:

Appearance (baby's skin color)

  • 0 is for pale coloring
  • 1 is for pink color, and blue hands and feet 
  • 2 is for pink coloring all over (the baby's mouth, palms and soles are checked on Asian or black babies)

Pulse (baby's heartbeat)

  • 0 is if a heartbeat isn't found 
  • 1 is < 100 beats/minute
  • 2 is for > 100 beats/minute

Grimace (baby's stimulation response)

  • 0 is for no response
  • 1 is if the baby frowns 
  • 2 is for a strong cry 

Activity (baby's muscle tone)

  • 0 is if there is no, or weak, activity
  • 1 is for limited movement
  • 2 is for strong movements

Respiration (baby's breathing)

  • 0 is for no breathing
  • 1 is for slow, irregular breathing 
  • 2 is for good strong breaths/crying

The highest possible score is ten, but very few newborns score that high. A normal range for an infant on the test is 7 to 9.

The Apgar Score And Baby Health

With the Apgar score, baby health can be quickly assessed so medical staff can act immediately if needed. Any baby with a score lower than 7 on the Apgar may need additional care and support.

  • For babies who score under 4 points, additional tests, resuscitation and special care are almost certainly required.
  • An infant that scores between 4 and 6 on the Apgar test may require help with clearing airways and extra oxygen to improve breathing.
  • If your baby scores 7 or higher on the Apgar, their baby health is considered normal.

For most new moms, there's a lot to learn about caring for a newborn. If you ever have any concerns about the health of your new baby, call your doctor.

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