Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that happen when a baby’s lip or mouth does not form properly. Cleft means an opening.
The middle ear is normally filled with air. A cleft palate may cause problems with the tubes that connect the ear to the back of the throat (called the Eustachian tubes), and cause the middle ear to fill with fluid instead of air. This can cause hearing loss and more ear infections for a child with a cleft palate. The cleft palate may also cause problems with the teeth. Children with a cleft lip or cleft palate may have other birth defects that affect their ears, nose, or mouth.
A baby's face and palate form during early pregnancy. A cleft happens if the face or lips do not come together completely. The exact cause for this is not known. Things that increase the risk that a baby will be born with cleft lip or cleft palate include:
The baby is born with one or more splits in the upper lip or a split in the roof of the mouth. Some children may have an opening in both the lip and palate.
The cleft can be diagnosed by an exam of your baby after birth. Sometimes it may be seen with an ultrasound scan during pregnancy. An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to show pictures of the baby.
The cleft can be closed with surgery. Surgery can improve the look of a child’s face. It also may improve breathing, hearing, speech, and language.
Cleft lip surgery is usually done before age 12 months, and cleft palate surgery is usually done before 18 months. Your child may need more surgeries as he gets older.
Children with a cleft lip or cleft palate often have problems with breathing, feeding, and talking. Before your child has surgery to close the cleft, several kinds of specialists can help your child:
After the surgery, your child may still need to have therapy for a short time.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
Your child's provider can help you find specialists and other resources. There are many treatment centers for cleft lip and cleft palate throughout the United States and Canada. They are referred to by many different names, such as cleft treatment centers, congenital defect clinics, or craniofacial clinics.
You can get more information from: