Welcome to the Cleft Lip & Cleft Palate Resource Center. This website was created by The Cleft Lip & Palate Foundation of Smiles to help the parents of children affected by orofacial differences and support our mission of providing information and resources on orofacial clefts, their causes and what to expect during treatment.

We’ve developed a series of guides for the parents of children with orofacial clefts, along with expectant mothers who would like to learn more about two of the most common birth defects.

Orofacial Clefts: Resources For Parents & Children

Did you know that one out of every 33 babies is born with a birth defect?

Orofacial clefts, a category that includes cleft lip and cleft palate, are some of the most common. Every year, around 7,000 babies are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or both in the United States.

While treating these conditions can lead to extensive surgeries and therapies, most children born with orofacial clefts go on to lead healthy, happy lives.

On the following pages, you’ll find detailed information on the causes, complications and treatment options for cleft lip and cleft palate.

Cleft Palate

Around one in every 1,574 babies is born with an isolated cleft palate, an opening that separates the roof of their mouth.

Researchers agree that a combination of genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of most birth defects. Cleft palate is no exception, and several commonly-prescribed medications have been associated with an increased risk of orofacial clefts.

While children with cleft palates face difficulties feeding, breathing and speaking, surgical procedures within the first 18 months of life can restore function and appearance.

To find more information on the different types of cleft palate, along with potential causes and treatment options, click here.

Cleft Lip

More common than isolated cleft palates, cleft lips can be accompanied by a separation of the palate, but need not be. Children born with cleft lips have splits on either or both sides of their nose, which can extend upwards to affect nasal tissue, as well as creating grooves or separations in the gums.

Like cleft palate, cleft lip is believed to be caused by an interplay between genetic, or hereditary, factors and chemicals ingested by a mother during pregnancy.

A cleft lip can be repaired through a surgical procedure usually performed before 18 weeks of life. Additional surgeries may be required to restore a more “normal” appearance, and ongoing therapies will be able to help children develop language, hearing and breathing abilities that may be inhibited by a separation in the lip.

You can learn more about the causes and treatment of cleft lip here.

Treating Cleft Lip & Cleft Palate

Beyond initial surgeries to restore basic structural functions, children born with cleft lip and / or palate usually require the help of an interdisciplinary team of specialists.

Because the palate plays an essential role in many basic abilities, babies born with orofacial clefts often need professional assistance developing each ability individually.

Learn more about surgical procedures and the key members of an orofacial cleft team by clicking here.

Prescription Drugs & Orofacial Clefts

We’ve mentioned that most orofacial clefts are thought to be caused by genetic and environmental factors.

While genetic causes are difficult, if not impossible, to control, expectant mothers do have considerable power over the things they ingest. Alcohol and nicotine are obvious examples of substances that should be avoided during pregnancy.

Many common prescription drugs have also been found to increase the likelihood of delivering a baby with an orofacial cleft. But in some cases, the ramifications of not taking a prescription medication pose significant dangers of their own.

As in all medical areas, the question of whether or not you should take a certain drug during pregnancy is a matter of weighing benefits against risks and making an informed decision with the help of your physicians.

With that in mind, we’ve provided a guide to prescriptions that have been linked with birth defects, as well as a description of several drugs that were thought to cause birth defects but have since been found safe. You can find more information here.