Lake Norman Oral & Facial Surgery • Dr. Raymond J. Haigney II • 9727 Northcross Center Ct. Huntersville, NC 28078 • (704) 987-3132
9727 Northcross Center Ct. Huntersville, NC 28078 • (704) 987-3132
What Causes Cleft Lip & Cleft Palate?
Cleft lip and cleft palate are two birth defects which occur during pregnancy when the lip or mouth of a baby do not form properly. These birth defects are often called “orofacial clefts”.
The lip forms during pregnancy between the fourth and seventh weeks. As a baby develops in the womb, body tissue and special cells from both sides of the head grow toward the center of the face. They eventually join together to form the face. This joining of tissue forms the facial features such as the lips and the mouth. A cleft lip occurs when the tissues that make up the lip do not completely connect before the baby is born. This results in an opening located in the upper lip below the nose. The opening in the lip can range from a small slit or can be a large opening which goes into the nose. A cleft lip can be found on the sides of the lip or located in the middle of the lip. Children who have a cleft lip can also have a cleft palate.
The roof of the mouth, also known as the palate, is formed during pregnancy between the sixth and ninth weeks. A cleft palate occurs if the tissue that forms the roof of the mouth does not completely connect during pregnancy. In some cases, both the front and back parts of the palate remain open. For other cases, only part of the palate is open.
Children who have a cleft lip and/or a cleft palate often have issues with feeding and speaking clearly. They can also suffer from ear infections. They may also have hearing problems and issues with their teeth.
Causes and Risk Factors
The causes of orofacial clefts are not known. Some children have a cleft lip or cleft palate as a result of changes found in their genes. Cleft lip and cleft palate are both thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other factors. These factors can include environmental exposure for the mother, what the mother eats and drinks or specific medications the mother uses during pregnancy.
Just like the families who have children with a birth defect, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) wants to determine the cause. Having a better understanding of the factors which are common among babies who have a birth defect, aids in understanding the causes.
Recently, the CDC reported important findings based on research studies regarding some factors which increase the likelihood of having a baby with an orofacial cleft. These factors include the following:
- Smoking: Women who smoke during their pregnancy are more likely to have a baby with an orofacial cleft.
- Diabetes: Women who are diagnosed with diabetes before becoming pregnant are at an increased risk of having a child with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate.
- Medication: Women who used specific medications to treat epilepsy, including topiramate or valproic acid, during the first trimester of pregnancy have an increased risk of having a baby with cleft lip and/or cleft palate.
The CDC continues to study birth defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate, in addition to how to prevent birth defects.
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