Common Issues Associated with Cleft Lip and Palate

Birth defects are a prevalent issue in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 120,000 babies are affected by birth defects every year. Among the most common type of birth defects are orofacial clefts. Typically known as cleft lip and cleft palate, these conditions can cause a significant number of issues and complications that parents will need to be prepared for.

Orofacial clefts arise from complications that prevent proper facial development during pregnancy. Typically, these complications happen at around the fourth to seventh week of pregnancy, when a baby’s head and facial features begin to form. In particular, orofacial clefts happen when facial tissues fail to fuse together properly. A baby born with a cleft lip will have a gap on the upper lip that runs up to the base of the nose. With a cleft palate, a baby will have a gap or opening on the roof of the mouth. There are also cases when both complications occur, resulting in both a cleft lip and a cleft palate.

While orofacial clefts can be treated and repaired with surgery, there are still some issues and complications that arise from having to deal with these complicated conditions. These issues are particularly common for infants who might be too young to undergo initial surgery. The most common issue with a cleft lip or cleft palate is difficulty eating and feeding. Children with a cleft lip or palate might have difficulty speaking as well. More serious complications include higher risks for ear infections, hearing loss, and other gum and tooth problems.

The CDC has long been trying to understand the causes of orofacial defects. Research findings show that these complications are typically caused by dietary and environmental factors that affect a woman’s pregnancy. In particular, their data shows that women who smoke are more likely to give birth to a baby with an orofacial cleft. The same data also identifies epilepsy medication taken during pregnancy as a possible cause.

A similar cause was found by a study by the College of Family Physicians of Canada. Their findings drew a correlation between the anti-nausea drug Zofran and the occurrence of birth defects. The Zofran attorneys of William Kherkher say on their website that they are currently investigating several cases that could strengthen these claims.

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