The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about
4,440 infants are born with a cleft lip in the United States every year,
and 2,650 are born with a cleft palate. Cleft palates and cleft lips are
birth defects resulting from a fetus’ facial tissue not joining
properly during development in the womb. Cleft lips can be diagnosed through
a routine ultrasound during pregnancy, but cleft palates are more commonly
diagnosed after the infant is born.
What Does Cleft Palate or Lip Mean?
During pregnancy, a fetus’ lip develops before the palate, typically
between the fourth and seventh week. As they develop in the womb, a fetus’
body’s tissue and cells grow towards the center of the face before
they join together. A cleft lip occurs when the two sides fail to join
completely before birth, leaving an opening that varies in size from a
small slit to a large gap that can stretch up to the nose.
The palate, or roof of the mouth, typically forms between the sixth and
ninth weeks of pregnancy. Similarly to a cleft lip, a cleft palate occurs
when the tissue fails to join completely before birth. The cleft can occur
in the front or back of the palate, and in some cases it occurs in both.
With treatment, children born with cleft lips and cleft palates can go
on to live a healthy, normal life. The birth defect can be repaired through
surgery, which can improve the child’s breathing, speech, hearing,
language development, and appearance. Repair for a cleft lip is usually
done in the first few months of the infant’s life, and is recommended
within the first year. Doctors recommend that cleft palate repair should
take place within the first year and a half of the infant’s life,
but should be done earlier if possible. Further surgeries may be required
later in life, and children born with cleft lips and/or cleft palates
may need additional treatments including dental care or speech therapy.
Risk Factors and Potential Causes
Experts have not found a concrete cause of cleft palates and cleft lips,
but the birth defects are believed to be caused by some combination of
genetics, what the mother eats and drinks during pregnancy, medications
the mother takes during the pregnancy, and/or environmental factors.
The CDC continues to study birth defects, and recently reported on their
findings from research studies about potential factors that increase the
chances of a child being born with a cleft lip and cleft palate:
Diabetes: Compared to women who don’t have diabetes, women diagnosed with
diabetes before pregnancy have a higher risk of their child being born
with a cleft lip and cleft palate.
Smoking: Children are more likely to be born with a cleft lip or cleft palate if
their mother smoked during the pregnancy.
Medication: If used during the first trimester of pregnancy, certain medicines, like
valproic acid and topiramate, used to treat epilepsy can increase the
risk of an infant being born with a cleft lip or cleft palate.
Zofran: The CDC, along with the Sloan Epidemiology Center, conducted a study in
2012 that showed taking the drug Zofran during the first trimester of
pregnancy doubled the risk of a child being born with a cleft lip or cleft
palate. Originally used by cancer patients looking to relieve nausea symptoms,
Zofran was prescribed to pregnant women as a way to reduce their morning sickness.
If you or a loved one took Zofran during pregnancy and gave birth to a
child with a cleft lip or cleft palate, contact Domina Law Group today
for a case evaluation. We will thoroughly review your claim to properly
quantify your expectations, and together we create a custom solution that
works best for you.
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