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Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate by Bridget Lucchesi

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Two birth defects that can occur in the first three months of pregnancy are cleft lip and cleft palate. These disorders can occur alone or accompanied with the other. Cleft lip happens when part of the skin directly above the lip does not fuse together. Cleft palate happens when part of the oral palate, more commonly known as the roof of the mouth does not fuse together. This disorder occurs in about 1 of every 700 babies born every year and is 100% treatable. Cleft lip can typically be visualized when the baby is still in the uterus through ultrasound however cleft palate cannot be seen until the birth of the child.

The causes of cleft lip and palate occurring are unknown, however the chances of a baby being born with cleft lip and palate are greater if a sibling or parent has experienced the disorder as well. The disorders may also be caused by environmental factors such as exposure to medications during pregnancy or exposure from the mother to other health conditions such as certain viruses.

A baby born with cleft lip or cleft palate can experience an array of problems that can be very serious if correction does not occur. The biggest risk factor these children face is a poor diet leading to malnutrition. Since eating becomes extremely difficult the food and liquid travels through the nasal cavity instead of down into the stomach. These children also face ear infections due to the connection of the body’s mouth, nose, ear, and throat which can become severe and cause hearing difficulty. They may also face dental issues such as cavities, missing or misplaced teeth. Lastly these children typically have issues with speech and once correction occurs will be seen by a speech pathologist.

These conditions can easily be corrected through a surgical procedure that is usually completed by 12 months of age. These children are then closely followed by their team which includes the child seeing an audiologist, speech therapist, dentist, orthodontist, otolaryngologist, and social worker. In summary, cleft lip and cleft palate are serious birth defects that are 100% correctable.

Napoli, J., & Vallino, L. (January 2011). Cleft Lip and Palate. Retrieved from
Tonn, E. (2009, February 9). Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate. Retrieved from


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