Just one minute into their lives, newborn babies will face their first “test,” and it’s an important one.
The so-called Apgar test, developed in 1952 by an anesthesiologist named Virginia Apgar, is used by doctors and nurses to quickly diagnose the overall health and well-being of a newborn.
Administered one minute after birth and again four minutes later, the test assigns to each baby a “score” of health based on five key factors (the first letters of which spell out, of course, ‘Apgar’): appearance (skin color), pulse, grimace response (reflexes), activity and respiration.
Taken altogether, those five assessments give medical professionals information they need to help determine whether all is well with baby–or if additional medical attention is required.
“The Apgar really is baby’s first test,” says Charity Fornal, a nurse in the nursery at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital. “What it does is give us an overall score of how the baby is doing. It summarizes their health.”
The test has been a staple of maternity wards for decades now, and its simplicity is a big reason why. For each of the five criteria of the test, babies will be assigned a score ranging from 0 (problematic) to 2 (healthy). If babies score 7 or above, they are generally considered to be in good health. Scores ranging from 4-6 are considered low and anything below 3 is critical. Here’s how the test breaks down: