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What is an Apgar test?

Information about the Apgar test on your baby, which is carried out one and five minutes after birth.

Posted: 10 February 2006
by Laura Lee Davies

When your baby is born, there is a simple checklist test to ensure that all is well. It's called the Apgar test after Virginia Apgar, who invented it.
There are five signs which the midwife or another specialist who is present will look for. They will check these one minute after the birth and then again five minutes after the birth.

What the Apgar test looks for

  • Colour/appearance: is the baby's skin blue, pinkish but with some blue areas, or pink? In non-white children, the eyes, mouth, lips, hands and soles of the feet will be examined.

  • Pulse: checking the heartbeat is regular and normal.

  • Grimace: the ability to react by either pulling a face or preferably crying out. (Often this is depicted in old films when the doctor slaps the baby's bottom!)

  • Activity: is there a good muscle tone or is the baby's movement weak or non-existent?

  • Breathing: this ranges from no evident breathing to a good, healthily crying baby.

  • If a child is not showing good signs in any of these, they are marked as 0, with 1 being slightly better and 2 being ideal.
    The highest score would be 10 (2 for each sign) and the average, perfectly healthy child will usually score around 7. If a child scores between 4 and 6, some closer attention beyond routine post-natal care will be given. Those who score under 4 will be given immediate resuscitative attention.
    Even those babies who score low are usually likely to be revived and go on to be very healthy babies, especially thanks to this simple routine checking procedure.

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