safe motherhood



The Apgar test is named after Dr Virginia Apgar who first used it as a means of assessing the baby's condition at birth. It's a test that your midwife carries out when your baby is 1 minute old and when he is 5 minutes old. The baby is scored 0, 1 or 2 on five different points:

1. heart rate:

0 = absent, 1 = less than 100 beats per minute, 2 = more than 100 beats per minute

2. breathing:

0 = not breathing, 1 = irregular breathing, 2 = breathing naturally

3. muscle tone:

0 = baby is limp, 1 = baby is flexing his limbs a little, 2 = baby is moving actively

4. response to stimulus:

0 = baby does not respond to stimulus, 1 = slight response, 2 = vigorous response

If the baby is white skinned, he is also given a score for:

5. colour:

0 = blue, 1 = body pink, but extremities blue, 2 = completely pink

'Dean was purple when he was born - a really awful colour. His Apgar was 6 at 1 minute, but by 5 minutes, he had turned pink - almost before our eyes! - and his score was 10.'

If the baby is not white-skinned, the colour assessment is not used, and the baby's Apgar score is given out of 8.

Most babies will have a score of 7 (6 without the colour assessment) at 1 minute, and 9 or 10 (or 7 or 8) after 5 minutes.

The test is useful to help the midwife decide whether she needs to call for medical assistance. However, the fact that your baby has a good Apgar score at 5 minutes does not mean that there is absolutely nothing wrong. The likelihood is that he is fine, but he will have further examinations during the first days and weeks of his life to make sure nothing has been missed.