What is an Apgar Score?

What is an Apgar Score?

Nov 14, 2017

The APGAR score is a communication tool between the hospital staff to assess how a newly born baby is coping with transitioning to the outside world. Although the APGAR score was developed in 1952 by anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar to assess the effects of anesthesia on babies, it has come to be used as common, quick test used almost universally.

A baby is scored in five different categories, Appearance (colour), Pulse (heart rate), Grimace (reflex irritability), Activity (muscle tone), Respiration (breathing) and given a score of zero, one, or two; two being the highest in each category. The perfect score is an APGAR 10, although it is rare for a baby to be given a 10 as they usually lose a point for some discolouration in the extremities. This is typically completely normal because the body is focused on oxygenating the major organs and systems.

APGAR Scoring System

A score of 7-10 lets the caregivers know that baby is transitioning well, 4-6 lets the team know that baby may need some assistance, whereas 3 or less means that baby needs immediate intervention.

Babies are scored at one minute old, five minutes old, and sometimes even at 10 minutes old, but usually only with those babies that score a 0 to 3 at one minute will need to be assessed again at 10 minutes.

Some parents think that the higher the APGAR the “better” of a baby they have, but it’s really just a communication tool to those in the room as to which babies may need more observation or help. Usually parents will be consumed with meeting their baby and won’t even hear or notice the APGAR. If you are interested, you can talk with your caregiver to learn what your baby’s score was and why it was given that number.

We encourage you to learn more about our "What in the World" series. Please see our A to Z index for a whole host of pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting information and terminology.

Heather Crossan is a certified DONA birth and postpartum doula certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding educator, as well as a certified Henna artist. She has been an active doula in Calgary for the past eight years, is the past-president of the Calgary Doula Association, and was the former provincial representative of Alberta (SPAR) for DONA International. She is the only DONA Advanced doula in Alberta. Heather is also a birth doula trainer and the owner of Doula Essentials. She is well-known within the international doula community and greatly respected by the medical providers in the city of Calgary and surrounding areas. She takes great pride supporting her clients through the entire journey.