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Cleft lip and cleft palate is a common birth defect, occurring in approximately 1 in 1,000 births. Clefts occur when parts of the face don’t join together as they should, causing an abnormal separation of the lip and/or the palate (roof of the mouth). Baby’s lips typically form by 6 to 8 weeks gestation. The palate forms a little later, generally by 9 weeks gestation. Because they form at different times, it’s possible to have a cleft only of the lip, only of the palate, or of both. Clefts may be partial or complete and may involve only one side of the mouth or both sides.
Although up to one-third of clefts occur where there is a family history of clefts, the majority of cleft lip and cleft palate cases are not hereditary. Researchers believe that most cases of cleft lip and cleft palate care caused when several genetic and environmental factors occur at the same time.
Clefts have been associated with substance abuse during pregnancy, including alcohol, cigarettes, vitamin A derivatives and some seizure medications. Additionally, a family history may increase the risk for a cleft lip or cleft palate. A number of genes have been correlated with higher risks; however, no single gene causes clefts.
Since clefts of the lip and palate occur during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, it’s possible that a cleft may be diagnosed by prenatal ultrasound. When a diagnosis of clefting is made before the baby is born, your Mercy OB/GYN will connect you with a specialized care team. They’ll help you learn what to expect, prepare for baby’s special care and feeding, and develop a treatment plan. If the cleft isn’t seen by prenatal ultrasound, the diagnosis is typically made at the time of birth.
Most cases of cleft lip and cleft palate are immediately diagnosed at birth and don’t require additional testing. It’s becoming more common to diagnosis this during pregnancy.
It’s possible that a cleft may be diagnosed by prenatal ultrasound since clefts of the lip and palate occur during the first 10 weeks of gestation. When a cleft lip and cleft palate diagnosis is made pre-birth, your Mercy OB/GYN will connect you with a specialized care team. They’ll help you learn what to expect, prepare for special care and feeding and develop a treatment plan.
Children with clefts may require several surgical procedures throughout childhood and adolescence, depending on the type and extent of the cleft. A uniform treatment plan cannot be applied to all children. Just as each child is unique, the treatment plan for each child with a cleft is tailored to that child's individual needs.
At Mercy, we offer comprehensive testing services to diagnose conditions and injuries, including:
At Mercy, we offer compassionate care for a variety of treatment services, including: