What is an Apgar Score?

An Apgar score is given to newborns in the delivery room right after they are born. The test quickly assesses an infant’s overall medical condition and helps to determine if a baby needs extra or emergency care. The Apgar test is given to a baby one minute after birth and then five minutes after birth. If there are concerns about an infant’s condition, a third test may be performed 10 minutes after birth.

The Apgar score was developed by anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar in 1952. The score is still used widely by hospitals today. The term Apgar also stands for the following acronym: Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration.

There are five factors that determine an Apgar score. Each factor is given a score of 0 to 2, with 0 being the worst and 2 being the best. The five factors are appearance (skin color), pulse (heart rate), grimace response (“reflect irritability”), activity and muscle tone, and respiration (breathing rate and effort).

Medical professionals add the results of these five factors together to come up with a score, with 0 being the worst and 10 being the best. Apgar scores can be interpreted as follows:

Heart Rate

  1. 2—Normal heart rate (above 100 beats per minute).
  2. 1—Below 100 beats per minute.
  3. 0—No pulse.


  • 2—Normal breathing rate. Good cry.
  • 1—Slow or irregular breathing. Weak cry.
  • 0—No breathing.


  • 2—Baby pulls away, coughs and cries with stimulation.
  • 1—Facial movement (grimace) only with stimulation.
  • 0—No response to stimulation.


  • 2—Active. Spontaneous movement.
  • 1—Arms and legs flexed with little movement.
  • 0—No movement.


  • 2—Normal color all over. Hands and feet are pink.
  • 1—Normal color, except hands and feet are blue.
  • 0—Bluish-gray or pale all over the body.

An overall Apgar score of 8 generally means that a baby is in overall good health. A lower score does not necessarily mean an infant is in poor health; it may merely indicate that the infant requires additional care. For instance, after doctors or nurses clear a baby’s airway, his or her Apgar score will generally improve.

Premature babies, who often require help breathing due to underdeveloped lungs, often have low Apgar scores. Babies who underwent a high-risk pregnancy, a complicated delivery, or a Cesarean section often have low Apgar scores as well. It is important to note that Apgar scores are designed to quickly determine an infant’s overall health and are not meant to predict a newborn’s long-term prognosis.

How Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC Can Help If Your Child Was Born with a Low Apgar Score

If your child was born with a low Apgar score, or if medical professionals failed to act upon a low Apgar score, Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC can help. A low Apgar score may be an indication that your child may have experienced a birth injury during pregnancy or labor. Contact our firm regarding a child’s low Apgar score and possible malpractice.

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