Apgar Scores

When babies are born, they are assigned an Apgar score. This score is designed to assess the overall health of the baby and determine if any medical intervention is needed. These scores take into consideration a plethora of information used to determine whether the baby is considered healthy or at risk.

Unfortunately, there are many children who are born with serious injuries related to birth. When these children are not adequately assessed and assigned an Apgar score based on the signs and symptoms they present, it can have life-altering consequences for their health and wellbeing. 

If your baby suffered as a result of a negligent or careless medical professional, it is crucial that you reach out to a skilled medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. You may have legal options available to you. Our team at The Malpractice Group will assess your situation and determine if medical negligence was the cause of a birth injury or resulted in a worsening of symptoms and injuries. Contact the medical malpractice attorneys The Malpractice Group at your earliest convenience to explore your rights and the legal options available.

What is an Apgar Score?

An Apgar score is a simple method that quickly assesses the health and vital signs of babies immediately after birth. Created by Dr. Virginia Apgar, this widely-implemented method is extremely beneficial for helping medical professionals detect and address birth injuries and other complications. The Apgar score analyzes five specific criteria to ensure the health and wellbeing of a child. These include:

  • Appearance (Skin Color): The skin color of the baby is evaluated after birth by an attending physician. They will look for any blue or paling of the skin and measure if there is any at the extremities. They will assess the child to see if there is pink all over to ensure they are experiencing no complications.
  • Pulse (Heart Rate): The medical team will measure the baby’s heart rate. An absent, slow, or fast heart rate can indicate some type of medical condition or problem. A normal heart rate indicates that the baby may not be experiencing any distress or problems.
  • Grimace (Reflex Irritability and Response): The medical team will ask if the baby is responding to stimulation. They will want to know whether it is responding with a grimace or if the baby is crying or pulling away.
  • Activity (Muscle Tone): The medical team will assess the baby to determine if they are limp or if they have some flexion. They will review whether the baby exhibits a normal response or if they show slow active motions.
  • Respiration (Breathing Ability): The doctor will determine if the baby is breathing adequately or if they are experiencing any problems. They will assess their cry for any indications of weakness, look for slow breathing, and make sure the baby is breathing well and crying normally.

Reviewing these specific conditions of a child after birth will indicate whether the child is experiencing any complications or distress, which could be life-threatening. 

What do Apgar Scores Mean?

Knowing what you are looking for to conduct an Apgar score rating is only half the process. Once a baby is evaluated, it is imperative for a medical professional to know how to interpret their assessment ratings. First, it is important to understand what an Apgar score means.

  • Apgar Scores Between 0-3: Apgar scores that are critically low often indicate that a baby needs some type of medical intervention. Babies who have lower scores are likely to need resuscitation.
  • Apgar Scores Between 4-6: A score between 4 and 6 is considered below normal. This score indicates that the baby likely needs medical intervention to address some sort of injury or illness immediately after birth.
  • Apgar Scores of 7+: An Apgar score that is seven or above indicates that the baby is otherwise normal and healthy and should require no medical treatment or intervention immediately after birth. 

In some cases, particularly those where babies are born with low Apgar scores, they may not be accurately assessed until medical treatment is administered. Waiting to perform any type of medical intervention when it is needed could have life-long consequences for the health and wellbeing of the child. 

Evidence suggests that children who have critically low Apgar scores for five minutes or longer are more likely to suffer long-term neurological damage. Studies have found that babies who have lower Apgar scores between five and ten minutes following birth are at an increased risk for developing epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Other studies have found that a baby is at significant risk for suffering cerebral palsy after maintaining a low Apgar score even for five minutes. 

Unfortunately, a higher Apgar score does not rule out the possibility of brain injuries entirely. Injuries like hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy are recognizable in some cases. It is imperative that doctors are able to recognize the signs and symptoms of birth injuries and administer adequate and timely medical intervention.

Causes of Low Apgar Scores

A low Apgar score can indicate a serious medical condition or birth injury in a newborn baby. Babies who are deprived of oxygen often perform poorly on the Apgar scoring test. Some of the conditions commonly associated with low Apgar scores are:

  • C-Section errors and delays: When a timely C-section is not performed in an emergency situation, it can have a detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of a child. When emergency C-sections take longer than 30-minutes to perform, babies can suffer irreversible brain injuries due to oxygen deprivation. 
  • Fetal monitoring errors: Monitoring the fetal heart rate of a baby is critical. Improperly reading the fetal heart rate can result in prolonged distress and other medical emergencies that can be life-threatening.
  • Infections: Newborn babies are not born with strong immune systems. As a result, they are at risk of developing life-threatening infections from bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens during the birthing process. In many cases, newborn infections can be prevented through the use of a scheduled C-section, the administration of prophylactic antibiotics, and ensuring the vaginal delivery process is long prolonged.
  • Maternal medical conditions: Pregnancies, where the mother and/or baby have an increased risk of developing serious health injuries, can result in low Apgar scores. It is critical for doctors to monitor the conditions of both the mother and the child throughout the entire pregnancy and delivery process.
  • Placental Abruption: When the placenta separates from the uterine wall prematurely, it can have a life-threatening impact on a baby. This detachment can cause oxygen deprivation for developing fetuses that require an emergency C-section. If the baby is not removed immediately, it can have fatal consequences.
  • Preterm birth: Babies who are born before 37-weeks are at high risk for debilitating birth injuries and other medical issues. Doctors who can effectively prolong pregnancies with the use of hormone progesterone or cervical cerclage may be able to decrease the chances of complications.
  • Prolonged and arrested labor: The longer the labor process goes on, the more stress it puts on an unborn baby. The labor process can cause overwhelming stress to babies that impact their heart rate and oxygen levels. It is crucial that medical professionals recognize when alternative measures need to be taken.
  • Umbilical cord problems: Babies can suffer debilitating injuries if there are spinal cord issues. When the spinal cord knots, is too short, prolapses, is compressed, or even wraps around the neck of the baby, it can have a life-threatening impact on the baby. Pregnancies with umbilical cord issues are considered to be high-risk and need special care and consideration. 
  • Uterine hyperstimulation/tachysystole: When there are too many uterine contractions during labor and delivery, it can cause stress to the child. Frequent contractions, as well as strong and long contractions, can deprive babies of the oxygen they need.
  • Uterine rupture: When uterine ruptures occur during pregnancy, labor, or delivery, it is crucial that doctors act quickly to protect the baby and mother. In some cases, emergency C-sections will need to be performed immediately. Mothers who attempt to deliver a baby after having a C-section for a previous pregnancy are at increased risk for these complications.

If you or your baby were victims of Apgar scores birth cases, as a result of medical malpractice, it is crucial that you reach out to a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to compensation to cover medical treatment and various other damages. Call The Malpractice Group to learn more about how to protect your rights and the rights of your child.

The Malpractice Group Can Help You

If your baby sustained injuries during childbirth, it is crucial that you act quickly to protect your legal rights. Reaching out to a birth injury lawyer will ensure you are aware of legal options available to you.

The lawyers at The Malpractice Group have extensive knowledge and experience helping families hold negligent medical professionals accountable for their actions that resulted in a birth injury. We strive to help those harmed collect full and fair compensation to cover the costs of medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other serious and life-altering effects of birth injuries. If your baby suffered a birth injury, and you believe it was caused by the negligent actions of a doctor, nurse, or another medical professional, contact our medical malpractice attorneys at (312) 561-4324 to see how we can help you.