Gestational age-related reference values for Apgar score and umbilical cord arterial and venous pH in preterm and term newborns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


INTRODUCTION: Despite much literature on reference values of acid-base status in umbilical cord blood at birth, there are as yet no studies performed to determine gestational age-dependent references in cord venous blood and no studies on preterm acid-base standards. Similarly, the normal reference range of Apgar scores for term and preterm infants has not yet been determined.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Data were obtained from the maternity units of Skåne University Hospital, Malmö and Lund, Sweden, from 2001 to 2010. Validated paired arterial and venous cord pH values were obtained from 27 175 newborns, of whom 18 584 had spontaneous, non-instrumental vaginal deliveries and a 5-minute Apgar score equal to or greater than the median value for the individual gestational week. Simple linear and polynomial regression analyses were performed. Values were reported as mean ± standard deviation and median with 2.5th and 97.5th percentiles.

RESULTS: Median 5-minute Apgar score was 7 for gestations shorter than 28 weeks, 8 for 28 weeks, 9 for 29-30 weeks, and 10 from 31 weeks onwards. A linear decline in pH for both cord arterial and venous blood was seen with advancing gestational age (P < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Median 5-minute Apgar scores were <10 before 31 weeks of gestation. Both umbilical cord arterial and venous pH decreased linearly with increasing gestational age. Further studies are needed to show whether gestational age-related pH reference ranges might be preferred to fixed cut-offs in the estimation of umbilical cord acidemia at birth.


External organisations
  • Skåne University Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine


  • Apgar Score, Arteries, Fetal Blood/chemistry, Gestational Age, Humans, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Infant, Newborn, Premature Birth/physiopathology, Reference Values, Term Birth/physiology, Veins
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1618-1623
JournalActa Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

© 2019 Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology.