What is a Normal Apgar Score?

newborn baby girl

Birth injuries are injuries that a newborn baby sustains from an event that occurs during or near the time of delivery. Sometimes they result from medical malpractice. Shortly after birth, any injuries sustained will become evident through the newborn’s Apgar score. Every newborn is given an Apgar score soon after birth. The medical team performs two quick tests on the baby at 1 and 5 minutes after birth. The 1-minute score determines how well the newborn tolerated the delivery. The 5-minute score helps doctors and nurses assess the baby’s immediate health. It tells them how well the baby is doing outside of the mother’s womb. The medical team uses this score to help figure out how likely it is that the baby will need medical treatment or intervention.

What Does “Apgar” Mean?

Apgar stands for “Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration.” When coming up with an Apgar score, doctors and nurses will look at five things to check a newborn baby’s health. Each is scored on a scale of 0 to 2, with 2 being the best score:

  • Appearance (skin color)
  • Pulse (heart rate)
  • Grimace response (reflexes)
  • Activity (muscle tone)
  • Respiration (breathing rate and effort)

Normal Results

The Apgar score is based on a total score of 1 to 10. A score of 10 is rare. Almost all newborn babies lose 1 point for blue hands and feet, which is common for after birth. The higher the Apgar score, the better the baby is doing after birth:

  • Apgar scores of 7+ are usually considered normal
  • Apgar scores of 4 – 6 are below normal. In this range, the newborn baby will likely need medical intervention. The lower the score, the more alert the doctors and nurses should be to the possibility of medical treatment.
  • Apgar scores of 1 – 3 are critically low.

If the baby is assigned a low Apgar score, however, there is a significant risk that the baby will suffer long-term brain damage. There is a significantly increased risk of the child having cerebral palsy. But the Apgar score is not determinative of a baby’s long term health. It is important to know that the purpose of the Apgar score is to quickly determine whether a baby needs immediate medical attention. It is not the goal of the Apgar score system to make assessments about the newborn’s long-term health.

Legal Help for Birth Injuries

If you or a loved one has given birth to a child with a low Apgar score, and are concerned about the child’s long-term health, you may wish to consult with a birth injury lawyer. The medical malpractice lawyers at Valent Legal have successfully helped families in Nova Scotia and elsewhere whose children have birth injuries like cerebral palsy. We will evaluate your case to determine if your newborn suffered injuries due to the negligence of the doctors or nurses. Don’t hesitate to contact us.


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