What Is an Apgar Score?

Baby gets an Apgar score at birth. What does the score mean?
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June 21, 2018
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At one minute and again at five minutes after birth, the medical staff will evaluate your baby’s activity and muscle tone, pulse, grimace response (ability to get mad), appearance (skin color) and respiration. They’ll give each of these a score from 0 to 2 (with 2 being the best score) and then add those numbers together. The point of the Apgar score is to check whether baby needs immediate medical care.

“It is used to indicate if and when a newborn baby needs help during the transition from life in utero supported by the placenta, to life outside of mom requiring independent heart and lung function,” explains Ronald Cohen, MD, director of the Packard Intermediate Care Nursery at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

Generally, a score over 7 is considered healthy. A lower score means baby might need special attention — or she may just need a little time. No need to mention baby’s Apgars on her chic birth announcements — the test is a tool for your doctors and isn’t meant to have anything to do with baby’s future health, intelligence or behavior. In fact, the doctor might not go out and say the score if you don’t ask.

“From a parent’s perspective, the Apgar score number is irrelevant,” says Cohen. “Of course, a parent should and would know if their baby needed resuscitation in the delivery room, which would happen if there is a low Apgar score. If not, then there would have been a higher, normal range Apgar score.” Either way, your doctor will let you know if there is any cause for concern.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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