APGAR Scores: What it stands for and how it measures your newborn’s response to the outside world
Apgar stands for Activity, Pulse, Grimace, Appearance, and Respiration. It is a test performed by health professionals after the baby’s birth. The Apgar score is a numeral representation that measures the baby’s response to the outside world – i.e., outside the womb. Doctors perform the test in the delivery room to know the baby’s coping abilities, predict the survival rates, and analyze healthcare needs. Read on!
The Importance of Apgar scores
The Apgar score is a standardized assessment tool that describes the newborn’s condition. Doctors perform the test to record fetal to neonatal transition. Keep in mind that the scores do not predict any adverse neurologic outcome or mortality.
Although most babies are healthy after birth, some undergo problems and require extra support to live. Research shows that some babies do not survive after birth due to complications.
The transition from the uterus to the outside world is not easy for babies because they have relied on their mothers’ bodies for nine months. The Apgar score enables the doctor to figure out whether a newborn requires medical care. For instance, it is most often performed to check whether a baby needs help breathing or has cardiovascular problems.
What Does the Test Involve?
A doctor, nurse, or midwife performs the Apgar test. The test requires the health provider to examine different body parts and mechanisms, such as breathing, heart rate, muscle, tone, skin color, and reflexes. Each category is assigned a score of 0, 1, or 2, depending on the observation of the condition.
A health professional will start the test by analyzing the breathing effort of the baby. If the newborn is not breathing, the doctor will assign zero to the respiratory effort. Likewise, a baby with irregular or slow respirations scores 1 for breathing effort. The breathing score is 2 if the baby cries well.
A doctor uses a stethoscope to evaluate the baby’s heart rate. The newborn scores 0 if there is no heartbeat, and if it is less than 100 beats per minute, the score assigned is 1. The infant scores 2 if there are 100 beats per minute.
A doctor, nurse, or midwife will then examine the baby’s skin color. If the color appears to be pale blue, the score assigned is 0 for the color. The newborn scores 1 for color if his or her body is pink with blue extremities. Likewise, the doctor will give a numeral value or a score of 2 for color if the baby’s entire body is pink.
The Apgar test involves examining the baby’s muscle tone. If the baby’s muscles are floppy or lose, he or she will score 0 for muscle tone. Similarly, the score is 1 if there is some muscle tone and 2 if there is active motion.
Grimace response, also known as reflex irritability, refers to the baby’s ability to respond to stimulation. For example, the baby responding to a mild pinch will determine the score. If the baby fails to respond, the score is 0, and if he or she is grimacing, the reflex irritability score is 1. Moreover, if the response is a sneeze, cough, or cry, the score assigned is 2.
How are the Scores Interpreted?
The Apgar test result will determine the baby’s health, wellbeing, medical conditions, or treatment requirements. The score is based on a scale of 1 to 10. A baby who scores higher is healthy after birth.
Research shows that a score of 7 and above is usually considered normal and healthy, which means the baby is in good condition. Health professionals say that a baby who scores 10 is rare because all infants have blue hands and feet. Although this is normal after birth, the baby will lose on point on the Apgar scores.
If the baby scores below 7, it means he or she is suffering from a medical condition or has birth complications. Remember, a higher Apgar score is directly proportional to the baby’s health and wellbeing. Likewise, the lower score indicates the baby needs immediate medical attention.
Studies highlight that difficult birth, fluid in the respiratory tract, and C-section are common causes of lower scores. A baby with a lower Apgar score usually needs more oxygen for breathing and physical stimulation for adequate heartbeats.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every five minutes, a baby is born with congenital disabilities in the U.S. It affects one in every 33 infants in the country. Recent reports show that there are over 120,000 babies born in the U.S with birth defects.
Besides other tests, the Apgar test is performed by doctors or nurses to determine the child’s health and wellbeing. It is also done to figure out whether the baby has any complications or congenital disabilities.