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Apgar score

2-minute read

What is the Apgar score?

The Apgar score is a test used by doctors, midwives and nurses to assess your baby’s health at birth. It helps medical staff decide if your baby needs emergency care.

The Apgar score is used to check a newborn baby at 1 minute and 5 minutes after birth.

The test is named after Dr Virginia Apgar who developed the score in 1952.

What does the Apgar score measure?

The Apgar score rates your baby’s:

  • skin colour
  • heart rate
  • reflexes and responsiveness
  • muscle tone
  • breathing rate

Each feature is scored from 0 to 2, with 2 being the best score. The scores for each feature are added up to give a total Apgar score out of 10.

What do the Apgar scores mean?

An Apgar score of 7 or more, 5 minutes after birth, shows that your baby is adapting well after birth.

However, a score below 7 at 5 minutes is considered low.

If your baby's score was low in the first Apgar test and hasn't improved in the second test at 5 minutes, the doctors, midwives and nurses will continue to closely monitor your baby and provide the necessary medical care.

What if my baby scores low on the Apgar test?

If your baby has a low Apgar score, the medical team will decide if your baby needs extra medical help such as assistance to breath.

The Apgar score is just one piece of information doctors, midwives and nurses use to assess your baby shortly after birth.

If you have any concerns, speak with your doctor, midwife or nurse.

If you would like more information about the Apgar score, you can call Pregnancy Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2022

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