APGAR Score

On a trip recently to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, I came across something surprising to me and maybe to some of you! Most of you have heard of the term “Apgar Score”, but what is it and where did it come from?

The APGAR score was developed in 1952 to help assess an infant at 1 minute and 5 minutes of age. The babe is given a score of 0, 1 or 2 on the 5 categories: Appearance (Skin Color/Complexion), Pulse rate, Grimace (Reflex Irritability), Activity (Muscle Tone) and Respiration (Breathing). Technically, a baby can get a perfect 10 (although sometimes there is a tendency of giving a 9 instead for superstition says a perfect 10 is asking for trouble).

Apgar scores are usually said out loud during those first vital minutes of life but usually the parents are, for some reason, distracted by their new beautiful baby or something, and the score goes unheard. When I am present as a doula, I always make sure I get those scores to later give to the parents because they are good to know. Be sure and ask what your babies scores are! I would assume (although not always best practice to assume things) that the babies care provider is given that information and I believe I have seen it charted in the computer at all the births so might be on the labor and delivery records from your care giver. Either way, just ask.

What I found interesting at the National Women’s Hall of Fame was that the APGAR score is not only a backronym (a backward acronym) to help remember what the 5 criteria, but was also the name of the women who created it.  Dr. Virginia Apgar was interested in birth defects and preventing them.  Because gestational age is directly related to an infant’s Apgar score, Apgar was one of the first at the March of Dimes to bring attention to the problem of premature birth, now one of the March of Dimes top priorities.

Apgar scores are being used now as a potential predictor in future learning disabilities.  That is one reason it is good to know what your child’s Apgar scores were, if situations arise later in life.

So shout out to you, Dr. Apgar, for helping us understand the immediate and future health of our children a bit better!