Right after a new baby is born they are given the first test of their life, which is commonly known as the Apgar score. This test provides medical professionals with a quick way to evaluate the physical condition of a newborn. The results will alert them to any emergency care or immediate medical attention that they may require.
The test is first given to babies one minute following birth and then it is given again when they are five minutes old. In some cases the test may also be given a third time when the baby is ten minutes old. This is usually performed when the 5 minute score is lower than it should be or if there appear to be some type of health issues that exist.
The name Apgar is short for the following factors that newborn infants are scored on. Scores are given on a scale from 0 to 2, with the score of 2 being ideal.
- Appearance – Coloring of the baby’s skin
- Pulse – Heart rate
- Grimace response – Reflex irritability
- Activity and muscle tone
- Respiration – Rate and effort of baby’s breathing
The total Apgar score is obtained when the scores from each of these are calculated by adding them together.
What Low Apgar Scores Often Mean
When a new infant is given Apgar scores of 8 or higher, it typically means that the health of the baby can be considered to be good. While many people automatically assume there is reason for concern when a baby receives low Apgar scores, this is not always true. It many situations it simply means there may be a small amount of special or immediate care the baby needs.
Sometimes a low score is an indication that oxygen is necessary for a short time or the airways need to be suctioned to help the infant breathe easier. After addressing problems like this, the baby’s scores often improve dramatically.
It is true that some infants are born with serious medical conditions that require immediate care and attention, which can cause low Apgar scores. With a lot of newborns however lower than normal scores are a sign that a baby just needs a little extra time to adjust.
As most any medical professional will tell you, even when Apgar scores are low from the first test that is given, most babies do perfectly fine after a little adjustment time.
Regardless of the specific reason why a baby’s Apgar scores may be low, parents can be assured their baby will be continuously monitored by a team of specialized health care professionals. This allows them to immediately provide any type of medical attention that may be required the very second a need is indicated.
Apgar scores tend to be less stressful on parents when they realize that a perfect score is actually quite rare. As a matter of fact, there are numerous babies born each and every day who are in great physical health, yet they receive low Apgar scores. In some cases this is due to the fact that their extremities have not yet warmed up and they appear to be blue in color. This problem quickly resolves as soon as they warm up.
Most Common Reasons for Low Apgar Scores
There are quite a few different reasons why a baby might receive low Apgar scores and some of the most common reasons are as follows:
- Premature births
- Cesarean section
- Labor or delivery that caused the baby stress
- Births of high-risk pregnancies
Apgar scores are beneficial for alerting medical professionals to immediate medical care and attention infants might require immediately following birth. Parents do however need to understand that this test in no way indicates lasting problems with behavior, personality, health or intellect.