Pediatric Care: Cleft Lip Treatment
The first 12 weeks during pregnancy is crucial. It’s a period where the fetus’ head and face take shape. It’s also the time where certain factors could lead to a cleft palate, cleft lip, or both. While these health issues are not too common, they are frequent enough. Yet, they can be treated. Children born with a cleft lip often lead a normal, healthy life with cleft lip treatment and pediatric care.
Help Is Available
Although physicians are not entirely certain about what causes a cleft lip, there are a few general things pregnant mothers can do to prevent them. With proper prenatal care and prevention during pregnancy, you may be able to avoid cleft lip treatment altogether. If your child is born with a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both, there are many pediatric services and specialty teams to help you lead your child through recovery.
Cleft Lip Vs. Cleft Palate
A “cleft” is a split. During fetal development, the two sides of your face come together in the middle and join in a central seam. However, if something goes wrong, the two sides won’t join, creating a split down the middle.
Sometimes, the split is only on the inside of the mouth – only in the person’s palate – and does not extend to their lips. Other times, the person shows a cleft lip, which can look like the two sides of their top lip are not attached to each other. Some people can have a cleft palate or lip on both sides of their mouth, and cleft lips have been known to go up someone’s face to their nose at times.
Researchers have not discovered one direct cause for cleft palates and lips, however, there are a few identifiable factors:
- Genetics: Family members born with cleft lips or palates may be an indication that your or your partner’s DNA could affect your chances of having a child with one.
- Pre-natal smoking & drinking: Mothers who drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes while pregnant may have a higher chance of having a baby with a cleft lip or palate. Especially those who smoke or drink in the first trimester (3 months) of pregnancy.
- Pre-natal medications: Mothers who take certain prescription medications may increase their risk of having a child with a cleft palate or lip. If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant, talk to your doctor immediately about the risks associated with your prescriptions.
Take Pre-Natal Vitamins
Fortunately, pregnant mothers can also decrease their risk of having a child with a cleft lip by taking pre-natal vitamins and having regular medical checkups throughout their pregnancy.
Diagnosing Cleft Lip
Often when a baby is born with a cleft lip or cleft palate, it is immediately identifiable. At their newborn examination, the doctor may check the baby’s mouth specifically, or you can request that they do so.
Some types of cleft palate or lip may not be able to be seen easily, but some symptoms can indicate that there may be a split in the tissue below the baby’s outer skin.
Ask your pediatrician about the possibility of a cleft palate or cleft lip if your baby has trouble feeding, gets frequent ear infections, or has difficulty speaking once he or she has reached that age.
Cleft Lip Treatment
Often, a surgery can repair the split tissue and bring the tissues that don’t attach together. Sometimes, it may take multiple surgeries, depending on the situation and when the cleft is discovered. People who are diagnosed and undergo surgery often eat, speak, and have full function of all parts of their mouth.
Others need speech or other oral therapies to learn to function normally. At times, some people with scarring from a cleft lip or cleft palate may become self-conscious, and there are support groups for people to share their stories. These are some cleft lip treatment options you can consider.
Talk to Your Pediatrician
Although it’s not the most common or the most dangerous of birth conditions, it is common enough for you to consider. Common enough for experienced pediatricians to identify and know how to address. If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or if you’re concerned your child may have a cleft lip, talk to your pediatrician. They can refer you to the right resources for your baby for proper cleft lip treatment.