What is the Apgar Test?

Baby in NICU

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that almost 4 million babies are born in the United States every year. Of the average 11,000 babies born every day across the nation, almost all receive an Apgar test to diagnose the newborns’ vital signs. Designed by Virginia Apgar, doctors use this to help determine how well a baby endured the labor and delivery.

The Apgar test is conducted within the first minute of a baby’s birth and at the five-minute mark. If the newborns display relatively low scores, the test will be conducted again at 10 minutes. The exam helps doctors determine any breathing or heart problems the baby may experience.

How the Test is Performed

The Apgar test looks at five factors to determine whether a newborn is healthy or not. Each category can earn a score up to 2, with the test’s highest score being 10. The average baby usually scores around 7-9. Anything under a 7 is cause for concern.

Doctors look at the following when examining a newborn:

  • Breathing – A baby scores 0 if they do not breathe, 1 if they breathe slowly or irregularly, and 2 if they breathe well and are crying.
  • Heart rate – Doctors evaluate the heart rate with a stethoscope. The infant receives a 0 if there is no heartbeat, a 1 if the rate is less than 100 beats a minute, and a 2 if the heartbeat is more than 100 a minute.
  • Grimace – The doctor will lightly pinch the baby to check reflex irritability. If the baby has no reaction, they receive a 0, if they grimace they score a 1, and if they grimace and cry or sneeze, they get a 2.
  • Skin Color – Doctors check the baby’s appearance for normal vital signs. The newborn receives a 0 if their skin color is pale blue, 1 if the main body is pink with the hands and feet being blue, and a 2 if they are entirely pink.
  • Muscle tone – The baby scores a 0 if their muscles are loose and fluid, 1 if they have some muscle tone, and 2 if they actively move.

If physicians fail to appropriately detect or address any adverse events during the labor, a newborn can sustain serious injuries. If your baby was injured because of inaction or carelessness, contact our New York birth injury attorneys today.

For over 40 years, David H. Perecman has distinguished himself as one of the leading personal injury lawyers in New York City, championing all types of personal injury cases including construction accidents, premises accidents, automobile accidents, and medical malpractice, along with employment discrimination, false arrest, and civil rights cases.