Apgar: What is it? What do scores mean?

Dr. Virginia Apgar was a remarkable physician who recognized the importance of having an easy, effective way of evaluating a newborn. In 1949, while discussing this topic with a student, she came up with five key points in recognizing distress in a newborn. And after some fine tuning, she presented this score in 1952, which was subsequently published the next year. This score is the same one that is used today.

At the moment the baby is born, a timer is set which beeps at one and five minutes. When the timer goes off, the baby is evaluated and a score assigned. This score helps the care provider to evaluate whether the infant needs assistance in adapting to the outside world.

Here are the parameters for assigning the Apgar scores:

Heart Rate

  • Absent -- 0
  • <100/minute -- 1
  • >100/minute -- 2


  • Absent -- 0
  • Slow, irregular -- 1
  • Good, strong cry -- 2

Muscle Tone

  • Limp -- 0
  • Some flexing of arms and legs -- 1
  • Active motion -- 2 Color
  • Completely blue or pale -- 0
  • Body pink; hand/feet blue -- 1
  • Completely pink -- 2


  • Absent -- 0
  • Grimace -- 1
  • Grimace and cough or sneeze -- 2

The reflex score is based upon the reaction the baby has to suctioning his or her nose. Each area is assessed, assigned a score using the points below and the score is tallied.

When the score at one minute is seven or lower, it implies that the baby may have experienced some difficulties during labor or the birthing process that lowered the oxygen content in the blood. Notice the emphasis on the word "may." There are many babies with lower Apgar scores who have completely normal oxygen levels and for one reason or another simply get vigorous a little later.

Connect with Us
Follow Our Pins

Yummy recipes, DIY projects, home decor, fashion and more curated by iVillage staffers.

Follow Our Tweets

The very dirty truth about fashion internships... DUN DUN @srslytheshow http://t.co/wfewf

On Instagram

Behind-the-scenes pics from iVillage.

Best of the Web