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Apgar score

2-minute read

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

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.

What is the Apgar score?

The Apgar score is a measure of a baby’s condition after birth.

It helps doctors, midwives and nurses to decide if a baby needs immediate treatment or monitoring.

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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Need more information?

Australia's mothers and babies, Apgar score at 5 minutes - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Apgar scores are clinical indicators of a baby’s condition shortly after birth. The score is based on 5 characteristics of the baby: skin colour, pulse, breathing, muscle tone and reflex irritability. Each characteristic is given between 0 and 2 points, with a total score between 0 and 10 points.

Read more on AIHW – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website

Baby's health: the Apgar score - MyDr.com.au

Find out about the Apgar newborn scoring system, the standardised technique that doctors use to determine the health of a baby within 5 minutes of its birth.

Read more on myDr website

Baby's first 24 hours

There is a lot going on in the first 24 hours of your baby's life, so find out what you can expect.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Labour & birth: what to expect | Raising Children Network

Early labour signs include a show, waters breaking and pain. During labour, your contractions increase and your cervix dilates, so you can birth your baby.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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