APGAR: Your Baby’s First Test

One of the first questions new parents ask usually falls along the lines of, “Is the baby OK?” The common first question of parents has lead doctors and nurses to develop a quick test, done just moments after birth, in order to quickly assess the health of your child. This test, called the APGAR, is given to your newborn within the first 10 minutes of life.

Most commonly the test is performed immediately following the birth. The test measures breathing effort, skin color, heart rate, reflexes, and muscle tone. Each area is given a score of 0, 1 or 2 for a total APGAR test grading between 1 and 10.

A score of 7 or higher generally means the baby is believed to be in good health at the time of birth. Most newborns will not rate a 10 as a point is lost for the normal occurrence of blue hands or feet. The test is not designed to predict future health of the child and a high score at birth does not promise continued health in the coming days.

Conversely, a score lower than 7 generally denotes an infant in need of swift medical attention or assistance. A low APGAR test score does not mean that your child is in peril. Common causes for a lowered score include a difficult birth, a Cesarean delivery, or the presence of fluid in the airway.  Quick and common treatments for low APGAR scores can include giving the newborn oxygen, clearing out the airway of the child, and external stimulation to regulate the newborn’s heart rate.

In most cases a low APGAR score will self-rise by 5 minutes of life. In many cases a low score can rise to normal levels by 5 minutes of life. Just as with a high scoring newborn, a low APGAR score does not provide any indication of future long term health for your new child.

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 22 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for the last two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the American Fertility Association, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 28 years and their two teenage daughters.