In 1952, Virginia Apgar, an anesthesiologist from New York, created a scoring system to evaluate the health of newborns. The APGAR score assesses 5 separate categories of newborn health at 1 minute and 5 minutes of life. Each category is given a score of 0, 1, or 2, with 2 being the highest each category can receive. The sums are then added for the final score. This assessment provides important information about how well your baby is transitioning to life outside the womb.
What does APGAR mean?
A – Appearance
When babies are born, they often look a bit blue and then with each breath, their skin gets more pink. This category is looking to see how quickly they pink up, which happens pretty quickly. In most cases, baby’s hands and feet stay a little blue tinged until their circulation system catches up to being separate from yours. Within a day or so, those little fingers and toes will be as pink as the rest of their body.
P – Pulse
Being skin to skin can help regulate baby’s heartbeat and the APGAR score can be done with your little one right on your chest. The nurse will use a stethoscope to count how fast your baby’s heart is beating, making sure your little one is recovering quickly from the birth process.
G – Grimace
For this category, the nurse wants to see your little one using it’s reflexes or grimacing when stimulated. Your baby may make faces or cry if it’s feet are rubbed. He or she may also cough or sneeze as it adjusts to this bright new world it is in. In this case, those cries are a good thing.
A – Activity
As you probably well know, babies are active! You have spent months feeling kicks and wiggles and possibly rated them from 0-10 on the Belly Richter Scale. For the APGAR score, those vigorous movements tell the nurse how well your little one is doing outside your belly.
R – Respiration
Did you know that babies breathe amniotic fluid when they are inside your womb? The process of birth helps squeeze some of that fluid out of their lungs, and then when they take their first breath, the rest of that fluid is absorbed as their lungs fill with air and expand. The nurse may tickle your baby’s feet or rub it’s back briskly to get baby to cry. Each cry helps open their lungs and the nurse will listen with the stethoscope to assess how well baby is breathing.
So while you are meeting and bonding with your little one, your nurses are right there assessing your baby’s APGAR score. This will be the first of many assessments your little one has in life, and we wish them the highest of marks!