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Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate


Baby girl in pinkCleft lip and cleft palate, which are together known as orofacial clefts, are birth defects that cause the baby's lip to form improperly during pregnancy.

Cleft Lip


The period between week four and week seven of the pregnancy is when the baby's lip forms. Specialized cells and body tissue from both sides of the face grow toward the center of the face to form the face as the child develops throughout the pregnancy. The facial features are thus formed by these tissues coming together.

A cleft can occur if this process doesn't take place naturally, resulting in an opening in the upper lip. This open can range from a tiny slit to a large opening from the lip to the nose. A cleft lip can appear on one or both sides of the lip. It can also occur in the center of the lip, but that is very rare.

Cleft Palate


A child with a cleft lip can also end up with a cleft palate. The palate (that is, the roof of the mouth) is formed between weeks six and nine of the pregnancy. Cleft palates occur when the tissue forming the palate doesn't connect properly during the pregnancy. In some babies, the palate can end up open in both the front and back, while other babies can have clefts on only part of the palate.

Causes of Clefts


In most cases, the cause of congenital clefts is not known. Genetics changes can cause these defects in some children. Other potential causes for cleft lip and cleft palate include both genes and a variety of other factors, including the foods, drinks, and medications the mother consumes during her pregnancy.

Risk Factors for Clefts


Recent studies have uncovered certain factors that increase a child's risk of having a cleft, and these include:
•  Certain medicines can raise the risk of having a baby with a cleft if they are used within the first three months of the pregnancy. Examples of these medications include those used for epilepsy, such as valproic acid or topiramate.
•  Diabetes is also traced to an increased risk of clefts in babies, compared with the rates in non-diabetic women.
•  Smoking during pregnancy can make a woman more likely to have a baby with a cleft than if she did not smoke.

Treating Clefts


The treatment that a child with a cleft needs will depend on how severe the cleft is along with the individual child’s needs and age. If there are any associated syndromes or other birth defects involved, then we will take those into account also.

We aim to repair a cleft lip via surgery within the first year and a half after the child is born. Some children will need further surgeries when they’re older. Surgery can not only repair the child’s face, but it can fix his speech, hearing, breathing, and language development as well.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please give us a call at (657) 216-1617.

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