All babies are given the Apgar test one minute after birth, and again at five minutes after birth. It checks their condition to see if they need any resuscitation.
Five characteristics are assessed and a score of 0, 1 or 2 is given for each. It was invented by a Dr Virginia Apgar in 1952.
Firstly, A. The appearance (skin colour) of the baby is checked. This indicates how well the blood is oxygenated by the lungs. If he is a healthy colour he gets a 2. If the baby has blue extremities he will only score 1, and if he is totally blue, he will score 0.
Next, P. The baby's pulse is checked. If the rate is above 100 beats per minute the baby scores 2, under 100 and he gets a 1, and under 60 scores a 0.
Third is G; the grimace test, which is a test of his reflexes. If he is crying or tries to move away when stimulated he scores a 2, if he is making some weak noises or grimacing he scores a 1, and no reaction to stimuli gives a 0.
The next A is a test of the baby's activity. His movements are observed to check his muscle tone. If he is fully active he scores 2, if he makes some weak movements, a 1, and limp baby showing no movement will be given a 0.
Finally, R; respiration. His breathing is checked. Regular breaths usually accompanied by crying give a score of 2, irregular breathing a 1, and no breathing a 0.
Most babies score above 7 in total and are in a good condition. Those scoring a total of 4 to 6 may need some help. A baby scoring less than 4 will require immediate resuscitation efforts to save his life.
A number of factors can affect the Apgar score. A low score at one, or even at five minutes does not necessarily mean that there will be any long-term problems with the baby's health.
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