Cleft Lip and Palete
A cleft lip and palate is one of the more common problems found in newborn babies, with an estimated one in 800 infants being born with this condition.
During the first few months of pregnancy, parts of the baby’s face will form separately and then join together. The lip and palate should usually close completely, 10 weeks after conception. If they don’t, a cleft will form.
What is a Cleft lip?
A cleft lip is an opening of the upper lip, between the mouth and the nose. It could be a small groove that only affects the lip, or a large groove that separates the lip from the nose. A cleft lip could also include the separation of the bones in the upper jaw and the gum.
What is a Cleft Palate?
A cleft palate is a groove down the middle of the palate. It is formed early in pregnancy, when the two sides of the palate failed to join. It can range from a small opening towards the back of the palate, to a complete separation from the back, right through to the front of the palate.
Even the smallest form of a cleft palate and cleft lip, could cause speech problems later in life.
What causes a Cleft Lip and Palate?
It’s not exactly clear what causes this condition. In some cases, clefting is a genetic disorder. According to the South African Cleft lip and Palate Association, if one parent has a cleft lip or palate, there is a small risk of around 4% that they’ll have a child with the same condition.
External factors may also be partly to blame for causing clefting. If the mother doesn’t take Folic acid at the time of conception and during early pregnancy, the risk increases. Other factors, including certain illness (german measles), smoking, alcohol abuse and the use of certain medications have all been linked to the formation of cleft palates and lips.
It is however important to remember that it’s not the parent’s fault, should a baby be born with this condition.
How can this be treated?
Parents will no doubt be disappointed, if not devastated, that their perfect baby has been born with a deformed lip and/or palate. They’ll go through a whole range of emotions, including shock, anger and denial as they welcome this little baby into the world and into their home.
If this condition is left untreated, the child may develop the same kinds of emotions. He is also likely to experience problems with speech, hearing and feeding. But it need not become a lifetime of anguish and pain.
In most cases, cleft lips and cleft palates are successfully treated through surgery.
The operation will usually be done in one or two stages and most doctors will try to ensure that the surgeries are all done before the baby is a year old.
Your baby will be placed under general anaesthetic and will spend about two nights in hospital.