Cleft Lip / Palate

A cleft lip is a congenital defect that develops in early pregnancy when the two sides of the upper lip do not completely fuse together. This can be a small opening, or it can extend all the way to the nose. A cleft palate, also a congenital defect, occurs on the roof of the mouth, when the two sides of the palate inside the mouth do not connect. It’s possible for a baby to have a cleft lip and a cleft palate at the same time.

Of all birth defects seen in the United States, a cleft lip and a cleft palate are two of the most common ones.

Causes of Cleft Lip, Cleft Palate

Researchers aren't sure what causes a cleft lip or a cleft palate, but they suspect that it might be due to a variety of genetic and environmental factors. A pregnant mother who smokes, has diabetes or uses certain medications, for example, may increase a child's chances of developing a cleft lip or a cleft palate.

When a child does develop a cleft lip or a cleft palate, the condition usually forms during early pregnancy. The lip forms between the fourth and seventh weeks of pregnancy, and the palate takes shape between the sixth and ninth weeks.

Treatment

Corrective surgery is the recommended treatment for most cleft lips and cleft palates. The extent and number of surgeries will vary based on how extreme the defects are. It is recommended that these procedures take place early in the child's life -- in the first 12 months for a cleft lip and in the first 18 months for a cleft palate.

These surgeries not only improve the child's appearance, but they can also improve other issues related to the birth defects, such as speech, hearing and breathing problems. Still, many children who were born with a cleft lip or a cleft palate may need other treatments as well, such as speech therapy or special dental work later in life.

SOURCES: Cleft Palate Foundation; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Date Posted
Article Title
9/27/2016
Babies With Cleft Lip Likely to Have Normal Adulthood: Study

However, cleft palate was associated with increased risk for developmental problems

1/17/2014
Smoking While Pregnant Raises Baby's Risk of Cleft Palate, Cleft Lip

Report from U.S. Surgeon General confirms maternal smoking's link to these birth defects

4/6/2012
Planning Pregnancy May Cut Birth Defects

Timing allows changes or adjustments in risky medications, experts say

2/22/2012
FDA Advisers Back Weight-Loss Drug Qnexa

Drug had been previously rejected because of concerns about possible heart problems, birth defects

2/21/2012
FDA Weighs Fate of Qnexa for Weight Loss, Again

Drug previously rejected because of possible heart problems, birth defects

1/30/2012
Study Looks at Possible HIV Drugs-Birth Defect Link

More research needed into unconfirmed association between antiretrovirals and cleft lip/palate

12/1/2011
Studies in Mice May Offer Clues to Cleft Lip

Scientists corrected the birth defect in mouse embryos, study says

10/3/2011
Mom's Healthy Diet Might Cut Birth Defect Risk

Prevention involves overall eating, not just supplements, experts say

5/20/2011
Infants' Cries May Predict Later Language Development

Babies whose cries lacked complexity at 2 months more likely to have language delays at age 2, study suggests

4/29/2011
Early Surgery Boosts Outcomes for Babies With Cleft Palate

To help prevent the common birth defect, experts also advise folic acid for mom

3/29/2011
Some Teens Born With Cleft Palate Adjust Better Than Others

Those who are satisfied with their appearance have a better outlook, survey finds

1/26/2007
Folic Acid Supplements Cut Babies' Risk of Cleft Lip

Study finds daily dose of 400 micrograms or more drops rate by 40%

8/18/2004
Scientists Close In on Cleft Palate Genes

First-ever mutation clearly linked to increased risk for the common birth defect