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Apgar Scores May Predict ADHD

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

As you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy, you’ll probably be relieved in some ways. You’ll be able to lift your own ban on caffeine, start working back towards your normal body weight, and say goodbye to the relentless back pain. At the same time, you might be nervous about entering motherhood. There are many questions you’ll need to know the answers to upon your baby’s birth, and motherhood will become your new unpaid – albeit wonderful – full time job. One concern many mothers have as their baby starts to develop is the risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Many kids are prescribed with different medications for ADHD, and there is endless controversy surrounding it. Unfortunately, the disorder affects many children and their ability to learn in a classroom setting, so it can be detrimental if left untreated. The worst part is that we as physicians are unable to find the cause for the condition. However, one recent study suggests that you might get a clue about your child’s susceptibility to ADHD right after birth.

After you’ve given birth, your doctor will perform an Apgar examination. The test measures your baby’s vital signs such as his or her heart rate, muscle tone, and breathing. Essentially, it is a score that measures the health of your baby immediately after birth at 1 and 5 minutes.   It tells the pediatrician whether or not your newborn needs to be resuscitated because it doesn’t demonstrate the essential hallmarks.  Your baby will be ranked on a scale of 1-10, and babies with a score under 7 need additional medical attention. Amazingly, the results of the recent ADHD study show that children with a low Apgar score immediately after birth are more likely to develop the disorder later in life. Even in children with a score of five or six, their risk was 63% higher than those with a score above seven.

If your baby is born with an Apgar score below seven, you shouldn’t immediately assume that he or she will suffer from ADHD. Instead, you should be prepared and look for signs as your child grows up that he or she might need some assistance in school. Being a good mom is tough, but knowing in advance that your child is at risk makes your job a little easier. The low Apgar score could be a sign that there were some developmental problems in the womb, and you should assist your child accordingly should any learning disabilities present themselves.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.