Facts About Cleft Lip & Cleft Palate

Cleft Lip / Palate Facts

Just about everyone knows a cleft lip when they see it, but many do not understand how cleft lips and palates form, how common they are, or the different types of cleft a person can have. Like many other things in life, understanding the condition and educating others is key to advances in eliminating stigmas in our culture, as well as supporting further research towards finding solutions to the problem.

The Center for Disease Control estimates 4,437 babies are born annually with a cleft lip. Often associated with cleft lip, cleft palate can be a separate condition, which manifests itself, according to the CDC, in about 2,651 newborns each year. The assumption that cleft lip and cleft palate always come as a pair is, in fact, not true. Approximately 70% of all malformations of the mouth occur separately from one another. Whatever the type, the cleft is one of the most common types of birth defect in the United States.


The Cause of Cleft Lip / Palate

Clefts are formed during pregnancy due to a variety of possible factors. While not everything is understood about the process, experts have established that the fourth to ninth week of pregnancy is when clefts usually occur. It’s during this stage that the lips and palate begin to form.  Cleft lip occurs somewhere between the fourth and seventh week when the tissue of the lip does not fully connect, resulting in a gap on the upper lip. A cleft can form on any location of the upper lip and vary in size. Clefts in the roof of the mouth, called a cleft palate, form somewhere between weeks six and nine. Like cleft lip, a cleft in the palate forms if the tissue of the roof of the mouth does not properly connect. In some cases, the front and back part of the palate fail to join, while in other cases only one area remains open.

The exact cause of clefts is still unknown, but there are some common risk factors associated with the condition. Whether or not these risk factors actually cause the condition is still to be proven, but looking at recurring patterns could help prevent future clefts. Researchers have proven that some clefts are formed by genetic abnormalities, but also believe it can be formed by combinations of genetic and the environmental factors surrounding an unborn child.  For instance, women who smoke increase the chances of giving birth to a child with a cleft lip or palate as opposed those who do not smoke. In addition, diabetes in women has also been shown to have a correlation with an increased rate of babies with cleft than that of women without diabetes.


How You Can Contribute

As you can see, much is known about cleft lip and cleft palate, but in order to eliminate the condition completely, there is still a lot of work to be done in the field of cleft research. You can help us raise awareness and funds to seek out this information in order to provide a better quality of life to children around the world. Donate today and spread the word about the Mia Moo Fund.