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Understanding Apgar scores

Within minutes of birth, your baby will receive his or her first checkup.

After nine months in the warmth, serenity and safety of the womb, the process of labor and birth is pretty dramatic for a baby. Apgar scores help measure how well your baby has weathered this stress.

At one minute and again at five minutes after your baby's birth, he or she will be given a score of 0, 1 or 2 for each of these five measures of condition: breathing, skin color, reflexes, heart rate and muscle tone. Added together, these five condition scores make up your baby's Apgar score.

The highest possible Apgar score is 10. According to the March of Dimes, babies who receive a score of 7 or higher probably are in good condition. Those with lower scores may need extra watching or special care.

But a low score may not be a reason to worry, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It doesn't reflect your baby's health before birth or measure long-term potential. In fact, most babies with lower initial scores turn out to be fine.

Reviewed 11/16/2022

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