What is a cleft lip? And how is it different from a cleft palate? This blog answers all your questions about clefts, their causes and treatments. 

A cleft in the upper lip and/or roof of the mouth (palate) is a gap or split in the skin. It is present in babies right at birth (a congenital abnormality). This happens when parts of the baby’s face do not fuse together properly during development in the womb, resulting in a gap.

What Is Cleft Lip? 

During the first four to seven weeks of pregnancy, our lips begin to form. Our lips and mouth are formed by tissues from both sides of our skull merging together in the centre of our face. When the tissues that make up the lips don’t fuse together completely, a cleft lip develops. As a result, a gap or opening takes shape between the top lip’s two sides. The cleft can be as little as a small depression or as vast as a gap that extends to the nose. 

What Is Cleft Palate? 

Between the sixth and ninth weeks of pregnancy, the palate (the roof of the mouth) develops. When the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth does not fuse together completely during pregnancy, a cleft palate develops. Both the front and rear parts of some babies’ palates are sometimes open and other times only a portion of the palate is open.

What Causes Clefts? 

The exact reason why some babies experience clefts is unknown. It’s extremely improbable that anything you did or didn’t do during pregnancy caused it. However, there are indications of the following factors being linked to clefts. 

  • Inherited genres
  • Substance abuse during pregnancy 
  • Obesity during pregnancy 
  • Shortage of folic acid during pregnancy
  • Medications like anti-seizure tablets or steroid tablets 
  • A part of a condition that causes a wider range of birth defects (DiGeorge syndrome or Pierre Robin syndrome)
  • Exposure to viruses or chemicals during pregnancy 

How Is it Treated? 

Babies born with a cleft lip or cleft palate may struggle to eat (both from the breast and a bottle). They may also have difficulty speaking, as well as fluid behind their eardrum, which can impair hearing. Some people have problems with their teeth as well, depending on the case.

Hence, a team of doctors and other professionals are typically involved in the care of these babies due to the multitude of oral health and medical complications connected with a cleft lip or cleft palate.

Typically, your baby will have a long-term care plan that describes the treatments and examinations that they will be required to take as they grow older. Some of the treatment plans include:

Surgery: cleft lip surgery is done when your baby is 3 to 6 months and cleft palate surgery is usually done at 6 to 12 months.

feeding support: You will require breastfeeding advice and special bottles to feed your baby adequately.

Monitoring hearing: A newborn with a cleft palate is more likely to develop a glue ear, which can impair hearing. A hearing aid may be provided or small tubes called grommets may be inserted in their ears to drain the fluid if glue ear affects their hearing considerably.

Speech and language therapy: A speech and language therapist will track your child’s speech and language development throughout their childhood and help them with any issues they may have.

Good dental hygiene and orthodontic treatment: You’ll get advice on how to care for your child’s teeth, and if their adult teeth don’t come through properly, they may require braces.

In conclusion, although the term and the area affected differ, most of the treatment plans remain similar. If your baby has this defect, or if you are worried that your child might be born with this birth defect, reach out to Ayu Health Hospitals. We offer all kinds of advanced treatments to handle and prepare for clefts. From genetic counselling to cleft lip surgery ? book an appointment today

About the Author

Dr Pradeep Kumar N
Dr Pradeep Kumar N
MBBS, DNB (General Surgery), DNB(Plastic Surgery) at Ayu Health | Website | + posts

Dr. Pradeep Kumar N is a renowned Internal Medicine Specialist currently practicing at Ayu Health Hospital, Bangalore. Dr. Pradeep Kumar N is a Plastic Surgeon in Nandini Layout, Bangalore, and has an experience of 10 years in this field. Specialized surgeries in Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery & General surgery