The first test performed on your newborn, the APGAR, occurs right after your baby's birth. The test was designed to quickly evaluate a newborn's physical condition to determine any immediate need for extra medical care.
The APGAR score was devised by Virginia Apgar, in 1952. The APGAR is used as a quick abbreviation for: Appearance (skin coloration), Pulse (heart rate), Grimace (known medically as "reflex irritability"), Activity (muscle tone), and Respiration (rate and effort).
The APGAR score is determined by evaluating a newborn baby on each of the above 5 criteria with each of the 5 being assessed on a scale from zero to two. The 5 scores are the totaled for a summary score. The resulting Apgar score ranges from zero to 10. The test is usually given to a newborn twice, once at 1 minute after birth and again at 5 minutes after birth.
Scores below 3 are generally regarded as critically low, with 4 to 7 fairly low and over 7 generally normal. If the Apgar score remains below 3 at later times it may be an indication that the child has a greater risk of suffering long term problems.
It's important to keep the baby's Apgar score in perspective. The purpose of the Apgar test is to determine quickly whether a newborn needs immediate medical care and was not designed to make long-term predictions on a child's health, intellectual status or outcome. Few babies score a perfect 10, and perfectly healthy babies sometimes have a lower-than-usual score, especially in the first few minutes after birth. Keep in mind that a slightly low Apgar score (especially at 1 minute) is normal for some newborns, especially those born after a high-risk pregnancy, cesarean section, or a complicated labor and delivery.
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