This article is an eye opener into some interesting facts about cleft lip and cleft palate, congenital disorders seen in both male and female babies. The parents of an infant with either or both of these disorders often feel angry with themselves and hold themselves responsible for their baby’s plight. However, they shouldn’t because it is not their fault. They may also be worried about how the visible deformity would affect the child’s life and how he would be treated by his peers. It is the parents’ responsibility to encourage activities that highlight the child’s strengths and increase his self-esteem. They should also teach their child the proper way to respond to teasing, and encourage friendships with compassionate people who will give the child the respect he deserves. The good news is that both anomalies can be fixed with reconstructive surgery.

Realities about Cleft Lip and Palate

  • Cleft lip and cleft palate are oral-facial clefts meaning they are congenital defects marked by an opening in a structure around the face and mouth.
  • Around 1 in 700 newborns have a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate
  • All babies begin their life having both clefts. However, both fuse together between the 6th and 11th week of pregnancy in the course of normal fetal development.
  • The babies who don’t develop properly are the ones in which the clefts are retained.
  • Native Americans, Latinos and Asians have a greater chance of developing the disorders than other races. The disorders are rare in people of African origin.
  • Clefts can be unilateral (split on only one side) or bilateral (split on both sides).
  • Cleft palate without cleft lip is more common in girls. The cleft lip condition affects more boys than girls.
  • To date, no one knows for sure what causes the deformities.
  • However, it is believed that the development of the disorders is influenced by one or more of these factors:
    • Genetic material from one or both parents
    • Environmental factors such as alcohol or tobacco abuse during pregnancy, a diet lacking folic acid and Vitamin B, or illness
    • Consumption of certain medications
    • Maternal obesity
  • Cleft lip and cleft palate can usually be visually diagnosed around the 20th week of pregnancy when the first ultrasound of the baby is done. However, submuscous cleft palate is an exception as it remains concealed by the mouth’s unbroken and smooth lining. Hence, it may be diagnosed only much later.
  • The congenital disorders can cause several complications and difficulties for the baby, the nature of which would depend on their location and degree.
  • Commonly seen complications and difficulties are feeding problems, chest infections, speech defects, ear infections, malformed or missing teeth and hearing loss.
  • Cleft lip surgery is usually performed when the baby is between 10 and 12 weeks old. Cleft palate surgery is usually done before the baby has completed 18 months.
  • Multiple surgeries even extending into the child’s teenage years may be required to completely fix the problem. However, the surgeries would be successful in not just fixing the facial defect but also in reducing the associated complications it had encouraged.

Don’t Be Hasty in Making a Choice

These facts about cleft lip and cleft palate were provided with the hope of educating parents of cleft sufferers and the general public about these distressing childhood afflictions. Your primary care physician may be able to suggest the name of a plastic surgeon who performs reconstructive plastic surgery for cleft problems. If not, you can always search online for one. Choose a particular plastic surgeon only after doing proper research on him. You should be sure that he is suitably qualified and has adequate experience in successfully correcting the problems.

Author's Bio: 

Cleft Palate Reconstruction - Houston Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery, the office of Dr. Sean Boutros, provides the best treatment options for cleft lip and cleft palate.