After nine long months of waiting for your bundle of joy to arrive, you’ll probably be anxious to whisk your baby back to his or her nursery as soon as you’ve given birth to start your new life as a mom. Of course, you can’t do that just yet, as the doctors and nurses need to perform a number of tests to make sure your baby is healthy. They’ll perform a quick eye exam, hearing test, metabolic screening, and they’ll give him or her a vitamin K shot and Hepatitis B vaccine. One of the most important tests your baby will go through after birth is the Apgar evaluation.

The Apgar evaluation is the standard quick test for doctors to examine the health of newborns. Your doctor will most likely perform an Apgar test one minute after birth, and then another one five minutes after birth. The test is designed to evaluate heart rate, breathing, reflexes, skin color and activity level and muscle tone. These are all indicators of the baby’s overall health and mental wellbeing. Your baby’s score will range anywhere between 0 to 10, and babies that score seven or more are considered healthy. Your doctor will give your baby zero, one, or two points for each test, so a baby with a score of 10 couldn’t be any healthier.

While the Apgar test at five minutes after birth is supposed to clue the doctor in as to whether or not there are any immediate issues to be addressed, your baby’s score might indicate even more than overall health at birth. A recent study shows that babies with an Apgar test score below seven were more likely to be struggling in school at age sixteen. Since reflexes and activity level at five months after birth are signs of motor activity and brain development, this trend makes sense.

If your baby has an Apgar test below seven after birth, your doctor will take care of any immediate problems. After that, make sure you closely monitor his or her academic performance in school. Know that there is a good chance they will struggle, and be ready to step in to offer tutoring or suggestions for help. Knowing in advance that there is a good chance your child will struggle academically can help you successfully prepare to address the issue right away without letting it get too out of hand.

Source: Andrea Stuart et al: Apgar Score at 5 Minutes After Birth in Relation to School Performance at 16 Years of Age. Obstetrics and Gynecology Volume 118 Issue 2 pp. 201-208 August 2011