Cleft Lip And Cleft Palate In Babies

It’s Cleft Awareness week and although I have never met anyone with a Cleft in my life until now I would like to spread some awareness about it because it’s one of the less known but a serious defect among newborns.

What Is A Cleft Lip\Palate?

Firstly, Cleft is not a disease and it doesn’t happen midway in life! Cleft is a defect with which babies are born. Cleft lip is a split on the upper lip (looks like a dent & can occur either one side or both sides of the lip) of the newborn while Cleft palate is a split at the inner top of the mouth (at the palate). A Cleft lip can be small or wide until the tip of nose.

Why & How Does A Baby Get Cleft Lip\Palate?

As I said babies are born with Cleft – it is the outcome of the parts of a baby’s face not joining together as expected while the fetus is formed in the womb. Although not specifically diagnosed reasons for Cleft could be genetic (someone in the family might have had a Cleft), smoking & drinking during pregnancy, lack of adequate Multivitamins (especially Folic Acid) during the initial stages of pregnancy, certain medications taken during pregnancy like steroids and a minimal reason could be the environment the mother is in contact with during pregnancy.

When & How Is Cleft Diagnosed And How Can It Be Treated?

A Cleft can be diagnosed as early during the Anomaly scan that is taken for a pregnant woman during her second trimester (18-21 weeks). Although there are chances only for the Cleft lip to be diagnosed during the normal Ultrasound Scan and a Cleft Palate cannot be diagnosed in it. However both Cleft Lip & Palate will be diagnosed in the newborn screening that is done immediately after a baby is born (within 24-72 hours of birth).

The only treatment available for Cleft is surgery although most of the hospitals and organizations extend support to help with breastfeeding, monitoring for hearing defects (as babies with Cleft tend to have defects in hearing) speech & occupational therapy and maintaining the dental hygiene of the baby as a Cleft causes disruption and trouble for the baby in all of these. A Cleft Lip can be corrected by surgery as early as 3-6 months of age and a Cleft Palate can be treated with surgery during 6-12 months of age.

Preventive Measures For Cleft

There are really not much preventive measures for Cleft as there is no single cause\reason diagnosed for its occurrence. However, there are certain measures that can be taken to prevent Cleft when you are unaware if it runs in your genes. Avoiding smoking & consuming alcohol during pregnancy, trying to eat healthy & a balanced meal, taking Multivitamins & Folic Acid supplements right from the beginning of pregnancy, consulting with a good gynecologist and taking the right medications avoiding the risky ones, keeping your surroundings clean & pollution free all these might help reduce the chances of Cleft or any other anomalies in babies before birth.

Kids\adults with Cleft also have psychological disturbances as the defect makes them vulnerable. This is also one of the reasons for carrying out a Cleft surgery as early as possible since it helps the child lead a normal life. A Cleft Lip Surgery leaves a small mark on the lips that would take a few years to clear up but once cleared there won’t be any trace of Cleft on their face :) So next time you meet someone with a Cleft, don’t treat them like a weirdo and that will give them enough self-confidence to live their life happy! Hope I have covered enough about Cleft and knowing something like this is essential in life as it might help us or someone someday :)
Have a happy year ahead and a great weekend!  

To know more about Cleft and if interested in helping out kids who are born with a Cleft, please check out Anamaya Indo Pacific (links below). They are an NGO based in India to help make India a Cleft-Free country :)

Anamaya Indo Pacific Website:
Anamaya Indo Pacific Facebook Page:

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