The APGAR score is the first assessment that will be performed on your newborn after birth. It is performed at one minute of life and repeated at five minutes after birth to rate your newborn's overall health and determine the need for medical intervention. If the score remains low at five minutes, the assessment may need to be performed again at ten minutes after birth.

The APGAR score is noted on your newborn's discharge papers so you will also be able to look at the results if you are curious.

The acronym APGAR stands for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiratory. Each component is assessed and your newborn is awarded a score out of 2. All five scores are then added together to give your newborn's overall health a rating out of 10.

To receive a rating of 2 out of 2 for Appearance, your newborn's skin should be pink all over. However most newborns only receive a rating of one, as it is quite common for their feet and hands to be pale or blue immediately after birth.

For Pulse, a 2 will be awarded for a heart-rate higher than 100 beats per minute. Grimace refers to their reflex response and how actively they respond to being suctioned after birth (the amniotic fluid is usually suctioned from their nose and mouth), for a score of 2 they would be crying, pulling away and coughing.

Activity refers to their muscle tone and if they are actively kicking their legs and moving their arms around, while Respiratory refers to how well they are breathing on their own. A strong loud cry is usually a sign of good respiratory effort.

If your newborn receives a score between 7 and 10, no medical intervention is necessary and your newborn is fine and healthy. With a score between 4 and 6, your newborn will most likely need some assistance with breathing (suctioning, massaging or oxygen). When watching birth videos you may also wonder why the nurses seem to rub the babies so vigorously when they clean them off, this is to aid them with their breathing and not just the nurses being rough.

At my 36 week scan, I actually asked my gynecologist if she could tell the nurses not to be so rough with my baby when they rub her off, as I have seen it on birth videos and I was concerned for my baby's comfort. Only then did I learn the need for the vigorous rubbing.

If your baby receives a score less than 3, immediate medical intervention is needed which is usually resuscitation. If your baby does score low, that does not mean that they will not be perfectly fine at their five minute or ten minute assessments.

The APGAR score is noted on your newborn's discharge papers so you will also be able to look at the results if you are curious.

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