What is an Apgar Score?
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
If this is your first pregnancy or your first time on an antenatal class you may hear folk talk about The Apgar Score, and wonder what the hell that is.
Well let me enlighten you. The Apgar Score is a test given to newborns soon after birth. It is a way for doctors and midwives to check a baby's heart rate, muscle tone, and other signs to see if extra medical care or emergency care is needed. The test is usually given twice, once at 1 minute after birth, and again at 5 minutes after birth. The Apgar Score is based on a total score of 1 to 10. The higher the score, the better the baby is doing after birth. A score of 7, 8, or 9 is normal and is a sign that the newborn is in good health. The Apgar score has five components: 1) colour, 2) heart rate, 3) reflexes, 4) muscle tone, and 5) respiration, each of which is given a score of 0, 1, or 2. As for the odd name, Apgar stands for:
If your baby doesn't get a 10 at one minute or even after five minutes, don't worry. Very few babies get a perfect Apgar score – in fact in some NHS trusts fewer than 1 in 100 get that perfect 10. Quite often a baby will get an initial low score and then a higher score later, this is also totally normal.
Although most babies will have no issues, these early tests are a vital part of postnatal care. If your midwife has any cause for concern she will arrange for immediate treatment.
Your midwife will also check your baby’s height and weight, mouth, temperature and number of fingers and toes.
The vast majority of newborns tend to score between 7 and 10 and do not require additional treatment. However, certain conditions such as a difficult or premature birth can give an artificially low score that doesn’t accurately reflect the health of your baby. The use of pain relief can also affect scores.
Here's a little guideline for the scoring
A score of 8-10
In most cases, if your baby scores between 8 and ten, he’s in excellent condition and will not require anything more than routine care.
A score of 5-7
A baby scoring between 5 and 7 is usually in fair condition but may need a little bit of help with breathing. Your midwife may rub his chest or extremities to assist.
A score under 5
Babies with a lower score may require additional heat, light and oxygen via medical equipment. Pediatric support will be also be given and the test will be routinely repeated until the infant is in a stable condition. Keep in mind that the Apgar score is just one of many ways to measure a newborn's vitality. There are further tests and examinations that take place in the subsequent weeks and months after birth that will be used to assessing your infants health.
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