We know the Apgar score is an evaluation tool for newborns based on observations such as skin appearance and measurements of reflexes and heart rate. But now a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics says this test, typically taken at one minute and five minutes after birth, actually has implications for the new mom's health, too.
Researchers considered the undeniable bond between mom and baby in their examination of how a newborn's health is linked to a mom's risk for critical illness post-delivery, such as uncontrollable bleeding. Dr. Joel Ray, from St. Michael's Hospital in Ontario, Canada, looked at 600,000 live birth records from 2006 through 2012, and found a "very strong relation" between a newborn's Apgar score, which is evaluated on a scale of 1 to 10, and whether the mother had to be admitted to the intensive care unit after giving birth.
Specifically, for babies who had a normal Apgar score at the five-minute mark, or a score of 7 or higher, just 1.7 per 1,000 moms were admitted to the ICU. But an intermediate score of between 4 and 6 meant 12.3 of every 1,000 moms went to the ICU, and when the score dipped into the low range (0 to 3), moms went to the ICU at the rate of 18.2 per 1,000.
This means moms whose babies had a low score were nine times more likely to have to be admitted to the ICU than moms whose babies were given normal scores. An intermediate score meant moms were 6.5 times more likely to be critically ill. This data held true even when other factors such as age, previous deliveries, and health conditions were taken into account.
This is the first study to use a newborn health assessement to determine a mom's critical illness risk.
"Our study shows that a universally available metric for newborns—the Apgar score—provides a promising and novel application for mothers as well," Dr. Ray said. "At a minimum, it confirms that, even after birth, the health of the baby and mother remain intimately linked."
Well, that part we knew!
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.