Do you know what an APGAR score is? Well, if you’re pregnant, you should.

In 1952, Dr. Virginia Apgar, an anesthesiologist, developed a system to evaluate the baby’s response to its new external environment outside of the uterus and revolutionized newborn care. The Apgar score can determine whether the newborn will need more intensive care and is used world-wide.  It evaluates the baby’s condition after the 1st and 5th minute of life by looking at it heart rate, respirations (or breathing), muscle tone, reflexes and skin color. Each of these five conditions is assigned a score of 0, 1 or 2. Ideally, the perfect baby is one that has a heart rate above 100 beats per minute, a good cry, active motion, coughing, sneezing or crying and completely pink. The ideal score is 10 after 5 minutes. If the five-minute score is less than 7, additional scores are obtained every five minutes for a total of 20 minutes. About 90 percent of newborns will have a score between 7 and 10 and need no further intervention. But what happens if the baby’s Apgar score is less than 7? Approximately 10 percent of newborns will require intervention and 1 percent will need serious intervention or help at birth.

An article in the August 2011 edition of The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology addressed the question of whether Apgar scores less than 7 have long-term effects on the baby’s future academic performance in school. It is well known that low Apgar scores increase the risk of neurological problems however very few studies evaluated children’s school performance at age sixteen until recently. A Swedish study reviewed over 800,000 with available Apgar scores and determined that babies with APGAR scores of less than 7 will have lower academic achievements at the age of 16. So, what’s a mother to do if she has a baby with an APGAR less than 7? Request a neurological examination of your newborn and look for future delays in speech patterns or walking. The earlier a problem is identified, the better the chances for improvement. According to the medical study, “Apgar score at birth is a powerful marker of neonatal health and effect on future academic achievements.”

Remember, a healthy baby doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.