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Why Your Baby’s First Test is So Important: The Apgar Test

The Apgar test was first introduced by Dr. Virginia Apgar in 1952. Since that time, it has been used in hospitals throughout the United States to assess a newborn baby’s physical condition at one minute and five minutes after birth. A high Apgar score indicates that the baby is in good health; whereas a lower score means that medical intervention is likely necessary.


What does the Apgar test measure?

The Apgar test measures a newborn’s physical condition at the time of birth only. It is not used to assess the likelihood of future health conditions. However, failure to properly score or respond to the Apgar test may certainly lead to health problems.

The Apgar test measures A ppearance, P ulse, G rimace, A ctivity, and R espiration.

The Apgar test is scored by using the following rubric:



If the skin is pale or blue, a score of 0 is given.

If the body is pink but the hands and feet are blue, a score of 1 is given.

If the entire body is pink, a score of 2 is given.



No heartbeat is a score of 0.

A heart rate of under 100 beats per minute is a score of 1.

A heart rate of over 100 beats per minute receives a score of 2.


Grimace (reaction to stimulation)

No reaction receives a score of 0.

If the baby grimaces, a score of 1 is recorded.

If the baby sneezes, cries, or coughs, a score of 2 is recorded.



If the muscles appear limp, a score of 0 is recorded.

If there is some degree of muscle tone, a score of 1 is recorded.

If the baby is active, a score of 2 is recorded.



If no breathing is detected, the score is 0.

If the baby’s breathing is slow or irregular, a score of 1 is recorded.

If the baby has a strong cry, a score of 2 is recorded.


The meaning of Apgar scores

It is rare for a baby to score a perfect 10 on this test. A score of 7 or above usually indicates that the baby is in good health at the time of birth. Babies born via Caesarean section typically have lower scores, as do babies who are born prematurely or after complicated labors.

However, medical professionals should act quickly when a low Apgar score is recorded. For example, if the baby is having trouble breathing, the nasal passages may need to be suctioned, or the baby may need oxygen. If the baby’s heart rate is low or irregular, physical stimulation may be necessary to correct the issue.

If medical professionals do not quickly take action when a low Apgar score is detected, the baby may suffer serious injury or death. This is why it is so important that each factor of the Apgar test is carefully evaluated. Failing to detect problems in a baby’s health may clearly have serious consequences. For example, if a medical professional fails to notice that a baby is having difficulty breathing, brain damage may result if the baby goes too long without oxygen.

Medical professionals may be liable if they fail to take action

Physicians, nurses, and midwives may all be held accountable for medical negligence. If a medical professional failed to take proper action for your baby’s low Apgar score, or if your baby’s Apgar score was inaccurate and the inaccuracy led to a failure to intervene promptly, contact the Cleveland birth injury attorneys at The Eisen Law Firm today. During your free consultation, we will discuss your legal options and whether a medical negligence action is appropriate. To schedule your consultation, call 216-687-0900 or contact us online.