Cleft lip and cleft palate are facial and oral malformations that occur very early in pregnancy, while the baby is developing inside the mother. Clefting results when there is not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area, and the tissue that is available does not join together properly.
A cleft lip is a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip and appears as a narrow opening or gap in the skin of the upper lip.
cleft palate is a split or opening in the roof of the mouth. A cleft palate can involve the hard palate (the bony front portion of the roof of the mouth), and/or the soft palate (the soft back portion of the roof of the mouth).
Some families have a history of clefting. There may be a grandparent, parent, cousin, brother or sister, or another relative who has had a cleft palate. This may be passed on from generation to generation. However, only 1 out of every 5 clefts are inherited. There are many children born with cleft palates who have no family history of clefting.
Most cleft palates seem to be caused by environmental factors that increase a mother’s risk of giving birth to a child with a cleft palate.
These factors include:
exposure to German measles (Rubella) or other infections
alcohol and drug usage
certain vitamin deficiencies, especially during early pregnancy
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