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Find out what APGAR means and what doctors evaluate in the minutes after your baby is born.
Narrator: The very first test your newborn receives is the Apgar score – given one minute after birth and again at five minutes.
You may not even realize the test is being done as you're seeing your baby for the first time.
A nurse or doctor performs the test by observing your baby as she adjusts to the world outside the womb.
The purpose of the Apgar scoring system is to quickly assess aspects of your baby's overall health at birth and determine whether she needs immediate medical help.
Apgar stands for:
A: Activity and muscle tone
P: Pulse, or heart rate
G: Grimace response, or reflexes and irritability
A: Appearance, or skin color
R: Respiration, or breathing
Scores in each category range from 0 to 2, with 2 being the highest score.
For example, your baby's respiration would receive:
A 2 – the top score, for a good, strong cry, and a normal rate and effort of breathing
A 1 – for a weak cry, which may sound like whimpering, or slow or irregular breathing
Or a 0 – if your baby isn't breathing
The doctor or nurse will add up all five numbers for your baby's total Apgar score.
Most babies do better at five minutes than they do at one minute, since they've had a chance to warm up and adjust to breathing on their own.
Nurse: Apgars are 8 and 9.
Narrator: A perfect score of 10 is rare.
Nurse: An Apgar score of 10 is very rare. The baby's color at 1 minute and at 5 minutes hasn’t totally turned pink yet so therefore we'll take off 1 point for some blueness and that’s usually in the palms and the soles of the feet.
Narrator: If your baby scores between 8 and 10, she's in good shape and should only need routine post-delivery care.
If your baby scores between 5 and 7, she may need help breathing or some simple suctioning, stimulation, or oxygen.
If your baby scores 4 or less, she'll need immediate interventions or lifesaving measures, like a breathing mask or tube to deliver oxygen or IV medications or fluids.
Keep in mind that the Apgar score doesn't predict the long-term health of your baby. Perfectly healthy babies will sometimes have a low score at birth.
For the most part, babies adjust very well to their new world.