A cleft lip is a split or gap between the upper lip and the roof of the mouth (the palate). It usually occurs with the birth or in rare cases due to an injury. The gap occurs when the baby’s face doesn’t join together properly during fetal development. A cleft lip and palate is the most common facial birth defect, affecting one in every 700 babies.
Causes of Cleft lip and palate
- The exact reason for a cleft lip in some babies is often unclear. Cleft lip and palate can be associated with:
- The genes a child inherits from the parents
- Smoking or drinking alcohol during pregnancy
- Obesity during pregnancy
- Lack of folic acid during pregnancy
- Consumption of certain anti-seizure medications and steroid tablets during early pregnancy
The outlook for those who have a Cleft lip and palate
- Most children with a cleft lip or palate who get treated, grow up to have healthy lives.
- Children with a cleft lip are usually medically normal. Treatment can improve the appearance of the face and can resolve speech problems.
- A cleft repair surgery may leave a small pink scar just above the lips. The scar usually fades away with time or becomes negligibly noticeable as the child gets older.
Treatment for Cleft lip and palate
- Surgery – Surgery to correct a cleft lip is usually done at 3-6 months and to repair a cleft palate, and the procedure is performed at 6-12 months.
- Feeding support – You might require advice for positioning your baby on your breast for feeding, or you might need to feed them with a specially-designed bottle.
- Monitoring hearing response – Babies born with cleft palates may have high chances of having a glue ear. This may affect the hearing ability of the baby. Close monitoring of their hearing is important, to figure out if they have a glue ear, to treat it on time.
- Speech and language therapy – If your baby is born with a cleft affecting their palate, then speech and language therapy might be needed to monitor your child’s speech and language development.
- Good dental hygiene and orthodontic treatment – A good dental hygiene is very important to avoid any complications with a cleft palate, and braces may be required if their adult teeth don’t grow properly.