The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have estimated that in the United States, around 2,650 infants are born with a cleft palate every year, while 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip, either with or without a cleft palate. A cleft is one of the most common types of birth defects in the United States, and is also common around the world. Among some 15 types of clefts that affect the mouth and face, known as orofacial clefting, cleft lip and cleft palate account for between 50 percent and 80 percent of deformities experienced by infants, depending on the type.
What causes cleft lip and cleft palate?
During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the fetus’ skull is developing. Two separate plates of bone and tissue begin to form. They gradually move towards each other, and they join, or fuse, at the mouth and nose to form the skull.
A cleft means a fissure or a gap. Cleft lip and cleft palate are congenital deformities of the face that happen before a baby is born. Before birth, natural structures form in the body and then join, or fuse. If they do not fuse, a cleft palate is the result. A cleft can be quite visible, and it can lead to medical, behavioral, and social difficulties, but nowadays, it is routinely corrected by surgery.
In a cleft lip, the gap occurs in the upper lip, and in a cleft palate, the roof of the mouth is affected. They can also occur together. One side only of the lip can be cleft, or both sides.
A cleft palate can be challenging for both parents and children, but nowadays, corrective surgery and other interventions are widely available.
There is no way to prevent a cleft palate, but avoiding alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy can reduce the chance of a cleft and other problems. It is also important to check with a physician before taking any medications during pregnancy. Parents can also seek genetic counseling before pregnancy to help them to understand the risk.
If you need more information regarding cleft lip or cleft palates call Atlantic Center Surgery at (954) 983-1899 to request an appointment with Dr. Stelnicki.