Decoding the APGAR Test For Newborn Babies

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Virginia Apgar coined the term APGAR test in 1951 to help doctors provide a quantitative test for newborns. The test is divided into 5 sections with each section receiving a score of 0 to 2. It is to help determine if the newborn needs immediate medical attention, but not to predict long-term health issues.


  • A: Appearance- Your medical team will evaluate your newborns color, specifically looking at difference between his or her body and extremities. It is important to note that babies that are born at higher altitudes, cyanosis (skin with a blue coloring) is much more common. 
  • P: Pulse- Feeling for your babies pulse will help the medical team determine the heart rate. 
  • G: Grimace- When evaluating your babies grimace, or reflex, your medical team is looking for involuntary movements in the response to various stimulates. 
  • A: Activity- Here they will be looking for how well your newborn moves his or her legs and arms in both flexion and extension.
  • R: Respiration-We all want to hear that first cry with new babies because it shows how well baby is breathing. 


Don’t Worry About Acing This Test

Rarely do newborns receive a perfect 10, and their scores are not intended to predict or diagnose long term health concerns. The APGAR test is a simple test your medical team can use to quickly and effectively evaluate your newborn immediately at birth.

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One Minute APGAR

The one minute test helps the medical team know if the newborn needs further medical attention. Rarely does a newborn get a full 10 score, but a lower score does indicate that the newborn may need future medical treatment. A score between 7 and 10 shows that a newborn only needs routine care.


Five Minute APGAR

The five-minute test helps show the progress that the newborn is making from the one minute test. For newborns that have received medical attention due to the one-minute score, the five-minute test can help show how the treatment is affecting the baby.  A score between 7 and 10 is considered normal. 


Ten Minute APGAR

Rarely additional tests are needed past the five minute test, but in some cases a ten-minute APGAR is conducted. If a newborn receives a score below 7 on the five-minute APGAR, additional APGAR tests will be conducted every 5 minutes for up to 20 minutes


We hope this helps you understand a bit about what your medical team will be looking at immediately following the birth of your newborn. Our birth doulas are always available to talk through this process if you need some extra clarification.