What is a cleft lip or palate? Cleft lip and cleft palate are openings or splits in the upper lip, the roof of the mouth (palate), or both. Cleft lip and cleft palate result when developing facial structures in an unborn baby do not close completely.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are among the most common birth defects. Cleft lip and cleft palate most commonly occur as isolated birth defects but are also associated with many inherited genetic conditions or syndromes.
Cleft lip and cleft palate occur when tissues in the baby’s face and mouth do not form properly. Normally, the tissues that make up the lip and palate fuse together in the second and third months of pregnancy. But in babies with cleft lip and cleft palate, the fusion never takes place or occurs only partially, leaving an opening (cleft).
Cleft lip (cheiloschisis) and cleft palate (palatoschisis), which can also occur together as cleft lip and palate, are variations of a type of clefting congenital deformity caused by abnormal facial development during gestation. A cleft is a fissure or opening. It is the non-fusion of the body’s natural structures that form prior to birth.
A cleft lip or palate can be successfully treated with surgery, especially if conducted soon after birth or in early childhood.
Approximately 1 in 700 children born have a cleft lip, or a cleft palate, or both. Researchers believe that most cases of cleft lip and cleft palate are caused by an interaction of genetic and environmental factors. In most cases, a definite cause is not discovered.
- Genes inherited from the parents. Either the mother or the father can pass on genes that cause clefting, either as an isolated defect or as part of a syndrome that includes clefting as one of its signs. In some cases, babies inherit a gene that makes them more likely to develop a cleft, and then an environmental trigger actually causes the cleft to occur.
- Exposure to certain substances during pregnancy. Cleft lip and cleft palate may be more likely to occur in pregnant women who smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and/or take certain medications.
A unilateral cleft lip means that only one side of the lip did not completely form while a bilateral cleft lip means that both sides of the lip have not formed completely. A unilateral cleft lip is sometimes accompanied with a unilateral cleft palate but not always. A bilateral cleft lip is usually always accompanied with a bilateral cleft palate.
Whether your child has been diagnosed with a unilateral or a bilateral cleft lip and/or palate, it is 100% reparable. With the proper treatment from a Cleft Care Team your child will thrive.