• Does A Newborn Baby's APGAR Score Matter?

    An infant's APGAR score may not predict long-term health, but it has played a crucial role the survival of infants all over the world.
    by Rachel Perez .
Does A Newborn Baby's APGAR Score Matter?
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  • Do you know your baby's APGAR score?

    Parents aren't usually particular about their newborn's APGAR score. Unlike school grades that they would proudly share on social media, many think that the APGAR score is but one of the many routine measurements, along with weight and height, that gauge an infant's health and well-being at birth.

    "APGAR is a clinical assessment done in the first minutes of life to determine how well the infant is transitioning to life outside of the womb," U.S. board-certified neonatologist Terri Major-Kincade, M.D., explained to Parents. It's an evaluation of how well a newborn is adjusting to living in the real world.

    If you have no clue what your baby's APGAR score was, don't worry. A newborn's APGAR score is not an indication of your child's long-term health condition. A high score doesn't guarantee that your baby will be in the pink of health at all times, and consequently, a baby with a low APGAR score may very well grow up to be healthy.

    Nonetheless, the APGAR score matters during the first few hours of life, as the test is designed to help doctors quickly assess a newborn's overall physical condition and give him adequate medical care, if needed, which may prove crucial for premature infants.

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    How does your baby get his APGAR score?

    The APGAR score was developed by Dr. Virginia Apgar, M.D. in 1952. It stands for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration. A newborn gets tested for his APGAR score within the first minute outside your womb, and then again at five minutes after.

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    For every category, an infant can receive a score of 0, 1, and a maximum of 2. Scores for each category are then all summed up. To better understand the scoring system, here are what the doctors look for in each category:

    Appearance

    This refers to an infant's skin tone. As a baby takes her first few breaths, her skin may turn from blue to pink.

    Pulse

    This is a measure of the infant's heart rate. Scoring is based on the normal level of above 100 beats per minute.

    Grimace

    Babies pull away, sneeze, cough, or cry with stimulation, e.g., a pinch, and this reaction is measured along with a newborn's reflexes.

    Activity

    This pertains to the baby's movement of her limbs. An actively moving baby at birth gets a high score.

    Respiration

    It measures respiration through an infant's cry. A loud, good cry is better than a whimper or no cry at all.

    newborn apgar score
    This table from KidsHealth summarizes how APGAR scoring is done.
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    What does a newborn's APGAR score mean?

    The reason why the test is repeated is because a low score during the first assessment could easily become normal after five minutes. Often, an initial low APGAR score may be attributed to factors such as a high-risk pregnancy, premature delivery, or C-section and complicated births.

    A typical APGAR score is 7; it's rare for a baby to score a perfect 10. Anything lower than an APGAR score of 6 tells doctors that the baby needs immediate medical attention. This could range from as simple as giving the infant assistance with breathing via suctioning the airways, or providing oxygen for active resuscitation.

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    If, after the second APGAR test, a baby's score is still below 7, then another APGAR test may be required at 10 minutes after birth, and possibly every five minutes after that until the baby's scores are at normal levels. This ensures the child can and will be able to survive on her own.

    A newborn's APGAR score has been linked by studies to cerebral palsy and a mom's propensity to postpartum depression, but keep in mind that this does not predict long-term health, behavior, intelligence, or personality. These may all be shaped by nature or your baby's genes, and how you nurture and care for your baby.

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