The APGAR test has been a routine part of newborn health assessment since Dr. Virginia Apgar published it in 1953. It is a simple and effective test that helps indicate whether a newborn is healthy or if they will need monitoring or immediate treatment.

Your doctor or midwife will perform this test when your newborn is one minute old and again at five minutes old. They assess five characteristics and give each one a score out of two (two being the highest). The total APGAR score is a number out of ten, ten being healthy.

What does the APGAR test assess?

The five characteristics monitored are:

1. Skin color: Blue all over? Are our hands and feet blue? Pink all over?
2. Heart rate: Under or over 100 BPM?
3. Reflexes and responsiveness: Does the baby respond to stimulation by making a facial expression or moving around?
4. Muscle tone: Is the baby moving? How active are their limbs?
5. Respiration: What is the baby’s breathing rate?

Each characteristic will receive a score out of zero to two. An overall score of seven and above typically indicates a healthy newborn. If your newborn’s score is below seven at the one-minute mark, it may rise by the five-minute mark.

If the baby’s score remains low, the nurse, midwife, or doctor will provide the necessary monitoring and care. This could involve providing the baby with oxygen, rubbing their skin to warm them up, placing them in a trolley with heat and oxygen, or calling a pediatrician for extra help.

Is the APGAR score a good indication of a baby’s long-term health and development?

The APGAR test is a system to assess a newborn’s immediate health and healthcare needs after birth. A score of 10 doesn’t necessarily mean the child will be in perfect health forever, and a low score doesn’t necessarily mean the baby won’t develop into a healthy child.

Medical professionals use the APGAR score to provide appropriate care to the baby at this stage of their life. The score does not definitively predict future health or development. A low score isn’t always something to worry about; it might just mean your baby requires further monitoring, oxygen, or extra warmth for a little while. If you have any questions about your baby’s APGAR score, you can ask your doctor, midwife, or nurse.