Cleft lip and palate are openings or splits in the upper lip or roof of the mouth (palate). A child can be born with a cleft lip, cleft palate, or both. Cleft lip and palate may be the only birth defects, or they may happen with other defects.
A cleft lip may be as mild as a notch of the lip. Or it may be as severe as a large opening from the lip to the nose.
A cleft palate may leave an opening that goes into the nasal cavity. Cleft palate is not as noticeable as cleft lip because it is inside the mouth. The cleft may:
Cleft lip and palate happen when a baby develops in the womb. Researchers don't know the exact cause of cleft lip and palate. It can be caused by genes passed on from parents, as well as environmental factors. Environmental factors include taking certain medicines during pregnancy, smoking or drinking alcohol during pregnancy, infections, and too little vitamin B and folic acid during pregnancy. Parents who have cleft lip, cleft palate, or both, or who have other kids with the problem are at an increased risk of having babies with the defect.
The symptoms of these problems can be seen during the first exam by your baby's healthcare provider. How much the lip or palate differs from normal can vary. The symptoms can include:
A cleft lip and palate can be diagnosed during pregnancy during a routine ultrasound exam. Or they may be seen during the first exam by your baby’s healthcare provider.
Both cleft lip and cleft palate can be fixed with surgery.
Beyond the appearance of a cleft lip, other possible complications include:
Cleft lip and palate can’t always be prevented. But there are things you can do to reduce the risk. They include:
You should consider genetic counseling if other members of your family have had cleft lip and palate.
Your baby’s healthcare provider will help you figure out how to best care for your baby.
The main concern for your baby is good nutrition. Sucking is difficult because of the opening in the formed roof of the mouth.
A baby with a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both will have specific healthcare needs. What works for one child may not work for another.
A baby with just a cleft lip usually does not have trouble feeding. To help with feeding, try the following:
Cleft lip is a split in the lip, and cleft palate is a split in the roof of the mouth.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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