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Large Study Finds Link Between Apgar Score and ADHD

By Heather Turgeon |

Apgar score and link to attention deficit

The link between Apgar score and ADHD

A new study in the journal Pediatrics shows a connection between the Apgar score a baby gets just minutes after birth and the likelihood of that baby developing symptoms of ADHD later in life.

The research looked at 980,000 Danish children born between 1988 and 2001. Apgar scores reflect the health of a baby directly after birth — taking things like breathing, color, muscle tone, and heart rate into account. A score of 7 or higher is considered normal, while a 9 or 10 reflects a baby in the best possible condition.

Here’s how a newborn’s Apgar score connected to ADHD diagnosis later in childhood:

Kids in the study who had  5 or 6 apgar score at birth were 63 percent more likely to have ADHD than children who had a 9 or 10 at birth. Those with an Apgar score of 1 to 4 had a 75 percent greater risk.

The scientists controlled for factors like preterm births, maternal education level, income, smoking, and income.

It’s an interesting link and the researchers wonder whether a factor that lowers Apgar score (such as decreased oxygen during delivery) would make subtle changes to the brain that later reveal themselves in ADHD symptoms.

It’s possible, but you have to consider that many in the study who had low Apgar scores did not develop ADHD. And on the flip side, many kids with ADHD had normal scores as a newborn.

Could it also be that something about a fetus’ health and development in the womb makes both a low Apgar score and ADHD symptoms more likely? In other words, could be that the low Apgar score (a factor like oxygen depletion at birth) isn’t the cause, but the two pieces are related to fetal health in some other way?

Image: flickr

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About Heather Turgeon


Heather Turgeon

Heather Turgeon is currently writing the book The Happy Sleeper (Penguin, 2014). She's a therapist-turned-writer who authors the Science of Kids column for Babble. A northeasterner at heart, Heather lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two little ones. Read bio and latest posts → Read Heather's latest posts →

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