National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month
July 25, 2019
This July, we spread awareness for Cleft & Craniofacial Prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year in the United States about 2,650 babies are born with cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip. By sharing information with those who don’t suffer from this condition, organizers hope others can help those who do.
What Is Cleft Lip?
Cleft lip can form between the fourth and seventh week of pregnancy. As the child develops during pregnancy, body tissue and special cells from each side of the child’s head grow toward the center of the face and join to make the face. This joining of tissue creates their facial features, like the lips and mouth. The cleft lip happens when the tissue that makes up the lip does not completely join before birth, causing an opening in the upper lip. The opening can be a small slit or it can be a large opening that goes through the lip into the nose. A cleft lip can be on one or both sides of the lip or in the middle of the lip, which occurs very rarely. Children with a cleft lip also can have a cleft palate.
What Is a Cleft Palate?
The cleft palate occurs on the roof of the mouth (palate) which can be formed between the sixth and ninth week of pregnancy. A cleft palate can happen if the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth does not join completely during pregnancy. For some babies, both the front and back parts of the palate are open. For other babies, only part of the palate is open.
How can cleft lip and cleft palate cause problems?
Children with an orofacial cleft can experience multiple problems, including:
- Having problems with eating
- Having problems speaking clearly
- Could be more likely to have ear infections
- Could have hearing problems
- Could have problems with their teeth
Causes and Risk Factors
The causes of orofacial clefts among most infants are unknown. Some children have a cleft lip or cleft palate because of changes in their genes. Cleft lip and cleft palate could be caused by multiple causes, such as a combination between genes or other factors, such as things the mother comes in contact within her environment, or what the mother eats or drinks, or certain medications she uses during pregnancy.
The CDC has made important findings from research studies about some factors that could increase the chance of your baby having an orofacial cleft:
- Diabetes - Women with diabetes diagnosed before pregnancy have an increased risk of having a child with an orofacial cleft compared to women who did not have diabetes.
- Use of certain medicines - Women who used certain medicines to treat epilepsy, such as topiramate or valproic acid, during the first three months of pregnancy have an increased risk of having a baby with an orofacial cleft compared to women who didn’t take these medicines.
CDC continues to study birth defects, such as cleft lip and cleft palate, and how to prevent them. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk with your doctor about ways to increase your chances of having a healthy baby.
Management and Treatment
There are services and treatments available for children with orofacial clefts, however, they can vary depending on the severity of the cleft. Other factors also need to be taken into consideration when finding the right way to manage and treat orofacial clefts such as:
- The child’s age and needs
- The presence of associated syndromes
- Other birth defects
With treatment, most children with orofacial clefts do well and can lead a healthy life. However, some children with orofacial clefts can still have issues with their self-esteem if they are concerned with visible differences between themselves and other children. It is important to spread awareness about cleft lip and cleft palates so we can be more accepting of those who suffer from these conditions along with fundraising to help support ways to prevent and treat orofacial clefts.
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