In 1952, a physician named Dr. Virginia Apgar developed a scoring system that determines the clinical status of a child based upon five different categories usually administered within 1 to 5 minutes after birth. Each category is scored from 0 to 2 for a total cumulative score ranging from 0 to 10. Healthy newborns should score anywhere between a 7 and 10, although a score of 10 is rarely given. Overall, the 5 Apgar categories are as follows:
- Complexion – A medical provider assesses a baby’s skin color. If a child receives a score of 0, that typically means that he or she is born with a blue skin tone all over. For a child with blue colored extremities, he or she will likely receive a score of 1. A score of 2 means that the child is born within a normal skin tone.
- Pulse rate – A newborn’s pulse that is below 60 should receive a 0. Between 60 and 100, a child will receive a 1. Above 100, the child will likely receive a 2.
- Reflex irritability- This measures a newborn’s response to stimulation. A baby who does not respond to stimulation will likely receive a score of 0. A child who only grimaces will probably be assigned a 1. If a child cries in response to stimulation, he or she will likely receive a score of 2.
- Respiration – This category measures a child’s ability to breathe on his or her own. A child not breathing at birth will receive a 0. If the baby struggles to breathe, a doctor will likely assign a score of 1. If he or she is breathing well with no difficulty, a doctor will likely assign a score of 2.
- Muscle tone – A medical provider will assess a baby’s extremities to determine muscle tone. If a child is not moving at birth (i.e., limp), he or she will receive a score of 0. If the child has limited flexion, then he or she will likely receive a 1. If a child is born with flexion and resisted extension, he or she will likely receive a 2.
A low Apgar score does not mean a child will have serious or long-term health problems, as it is not meant to predict the future health of the child. For others, however, it may signal a serious and potentially life threatening problem requiring immediate medical attention. If your child suffered birth injury resulting in complications observable just after delivery, please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800)462-5772 to discuss your legal options for free.
What are the causes of a low Apgar score?
- Oxygen deprivation
- Maternal anesthesia
- Fluid in a child’s airways
- A prolonged labor/delivery
What are the most common signs and symptoms of a child with an abnormal Apgar score?
An infant who has suffered from oxygen deprivation during delivery will likely manifest the following signs and symptoms:
- Difficulty eating, swallowing, latching onto the breast, and sucking
- Apnea-like symptoms during sleep, including breathing difficulties (i.e. holding breath or a cessation in breathing)
- Difficulty in arousing from sleep
- Low cord pH
Complications associated with an abnormal Apgar score
- Fetal distress
- Cerebral palsy
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy
- Periventricular leukomalacia
- Developmental delay
- Mental retardation
- Seizure disorders
When a child receives a low Apgar score, it can be devastating news for any family to receive. If you suspect that your child sustained otherwise preventable birth injuries that resulted in a low Apgar score, it is important for you to consider all of your legal options. Please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800)462-5772 for a free consultation.