Can You Prevent Cleft Lip in Babies?

Can You Prevent Cleft Lip in Babies?

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A cleft lip is a congenital disability that occurs when a child's lip forms differently during pregnancy. It is also known as an orofacial cleft.

While cleft lip may not always be preventable, there are steps that prospective parents can take to reduce the risk of their future children developing the condition.

These steps include taking a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid before and 600 micrograms during pregnancy, avoiding smoking and alcohol before and during pregnancy, attaining a healthy weight before pregnancy, and monitoring all prescription medications.

About Cleft Lip

A cleft lip refers to an opening in a baby's upper lip that is present at birth. Between the sixth and tenth weeks of pregnancy, the mouth and upper lip tissues typically fuse to create the child's face. When an unborn child develops a cleft lip, the tissues that form the lips fail to close completely during pregnancy.

A baby with a cleft lip will likely have problems breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. They may have speech issues later in infancy. They may be more prone to ear infections or hearing loss as they grow. They may also have developmental issues with their teeth, leading to the need for orthodontic treatment later in childhood.

Causes of Cleft Lip

The causes of cleft lip are not always clear. The following are some possible causes:

  • Genetic factors
  • The mother's use of certain prescription medications, specifically the epilepsy medications valproic acid and topiramate
  • Folic acid deficiency in the mother's diet
  • Chemical exposure during pregnancy, especially pesticides
  • The mother's alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy or in the pre-conception period

Surgical Correction of Cleft Lip

An oral surgeon is uniquely qualified to correct a baby's cleft lip. Generally, cleft lip surgery happens during the first few months of life and before the child's first birthday. Some children need more than one surgery to correct a cleft lip fully.

The surgical procedure to correct a cleft lip is relatively simple. The oral surgeon rearranges the tissue around the cleft to close the opening. The surgeon also detaches and repositions the lip muscle to ensure a complete circle around the mouth. Depending on the extent of the cleft, your child may need just one or two surgical procedures. The surgeon generally repairs the baby's nose area simultaneously with the cleft lip.

Call Upper West Side Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery

If your baby has a cleft lip, you can feel reassured that most children with this condition grow up to live normal, healthy lives with little evidence of their past problems. Correcting the issue at an early age can lead to better outcomes in feeding, speech, dental development, and hearing. Please call our office at 212-466-6984 to schedule a cleft lip consultation with Dr. Park.