ADHD: A Parenting Guide

What To Expect If Your Child Has A Cleft Palate Or Cleft Lip

While the vast majority of babies are born relatively perfect, occasionally things go wrong. The most common birth defect is a cleft palate or cleft lip, affecting almost 7,000 American babies every year. Here is what you need to know about this condition.

What Is A Cleft Palate And Cleft Lip?

When the human body is developing in utero, each side of the body forms, joining together straight down the middle. Occasionally, there is not enough skin to fuse over the face properly. This creates a cleft or a split. It may just be confined to the upper lip, or it may extend into the palate of the mouth and upper jaw as well as the nasal cavity. The entire palate may be affected, or it may just be confined to the front, bony part of the palate or the back soft part.

Who Gets A Cleft Palate And Cleft Lip?

For unknown reasons, children of Native American, Latino, and Asian descent are more likely to be born with a cleft. Boys are more likely to have a cleft lip, some with a cleft palate as well, some without. Girls, however, are more likely to have a cleft palate but no cleft lip.

What Causes A Cleft Palate And Cleft Lip?

Scientists don't know for sure what causes these conditions. It may be genetic in nature as there is often seen a familial connection. Certain medications, particularly those used for controlling seizures and treating arthritis, may increase the risk of cleft palates and cleft lips. In most cases, however, no cause can be pinpointed.

How Is A Cleft Palate And Cleft Lip Diagnosed?

A cleft palate or cleft lip is obvious at birth. In severe cases, it may even be diagnosed in utero during a routine ultrasound of the developing fetus. Even a mild case is generally immediately noticed at birth as a part of the normal inspection done of newborns.

What Problems Are Associated With A Cleft Palate And Cleft Lip?

A cleft lip is easily fixed with surgery once the child is around three months of age, with relatively zero negative effect on the child's development during that first year of life. A cleft palate, however, is more difficult. There can be eating and speech problems as well as repeated ear infections and dental issues.

How Is Cleft Palate And Cleft Lip Treated?

A cleft lip usually only requires one surgery. A cleft palate typically will require several surgeries as the child grows, with the first one at about six months.