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.