APGAR: Your Baby’s First Test

erinpic4One 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.