Cleft Lip_Cleft Palate_Craniofacial_Conditions

One in every 700 newborn babies has cleft lip or cleft palate, according to the American Cleft Palate Craniofacial Association. Cleft lip and cleft palate, considered craniofacial conditions, are the most common birth defects in the U.S.

A cleft lip is a gap or opening in the upper lip. The opening can be tiny or it can be larger, touching the bottom of the nose. A cleft lip can be on one or both sides of the lip, or in the gums.

A cleft palate is a gap or opening in the roof of the mouth. The opening can be in the front or back of the roof of the mouth, or both.

Babies in any racial or ethnic group can be affected by cleft palate. Babies who have Asian or Native American ancestry or who have others in their family born with clefts or craniofacial conditions have a higher chance of having a cleft lip.

Unfortunately, cleft lip and cleft palate cannot always be prevented, but you can take action to reduce your baby’s chances of getting these birth defects:

  • Take folic acid before and during pregnancy every day.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Schedule a preconception consultation. This is a checkup to make sure you’re healthy BEFORE you get pregnant. Our Maternal-Fetal Medicine team can evaluate anyone who may have conditions that put them at a higher risk during pregnancy.
  • Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and talk to your provider about gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy.
  • Talk to your provider about medications you are taking. Some medications are not safe to take during pregnancy and should be stopped or switched to another medication. Talk to your provider before stopping any medication.
  • Seek prenatal care – the medical care you get when pregnant – as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. UofL Physicians offers care from obstetricians and certified nurse-midwives:

Can Cleft and Craniofacial Conditions Be Detected before Birth?

If your baby has cleft lip, it can be seen on an ultrasound as soon as the 20th week of pregnancy. Cleft palate is harder to detect in an ultrasound, but new technology is being developed to better detect cleft palate. 3D and 4D imaging, available at UofL Physicians – Maternal and Fetal Medicine, gives great views to see the majority of cleft palates, but a thorough evaluation after delivery is recommended.

What if My Baby Has Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate?

Generally, babies can have surgery to close their cleft lip at about three to four months old and have surgery to repair their palate around 10-12 months old. If your child has a cleft lip or palate, more surgeries may be needed from childhood through adulthood, such as bone grafting, speech surgery or jaw surgery.

Suzanne Barnes, DMD, a pediatric cleft and craniofacial surgeon with University of Louisville Dental Associates, performs surgery for patients with cleft lip or cleft palate. She does prenatal consults and will evaluate your baby after delivery if a cleft lip or palate is diagnosed. She performs surgeries on children with cleft lip and palate from their first cleft lip repair until their final surgery as an adult.

Additionally, there are lactation services available to assist with feeding a newborn who has a cleft lip or palate.

UofL Health Can Help

UofL Physicians – Maternal-Fetal Medicine, part of UofL Physicians – OB/GYN & Women’s Health, is here to support you and your baby before, during and after pregnancy. We offer expert state-of-the-art diagnostic ultrasound imaging, including 3D and 4D scanning when indicated, at our diagnostic and therapeutic ultrasound center. Call 502-588-4400 to schedule an appointment.

UofL Physicians – Speech-Language Pathology works with patients with speech disorders, such as childhood apraxia of speech, lisping, articulation disorders and phonological disorders resulting from cleft lip or cleft palate. Click here to see our Speech-Language Pathology locations.

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Article by: Tiffany Tonismae, M.D., FACOG

Tiffany Tonismae, M.D., FACOG, is a maternal-fetal medicine and high-risk obstetrician with UofL Physicians – OB/GYN & Women’s Health. Dr. Tonismae specializes in high-risk pregnancies that include diabetes and hypertension in pregnancy, multiple gestations and fetal anomalies. She has researched extensively involved management of extremely preterm pregnancies as well as mental health disorders and substance use disorders in pregnancy. Dr. Tonismae is also certified in perinatal mental health, and she is an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health with University of Louisville School of Medicine.

All posts by Tiffany Tonismae, M.D., FACOG
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