Child with cleft lip feeding

How Common Are Cleft Lip & Palate?

Child with cleft lip feedingWhile all congenital abnormalities are uncommon, some occur more frequently than others. Unfortunately, most states do not adequately track birth defects, and we have no way of knowing the actual incidence of conditions like cleft lip and cleft palate.

With that being said, the Centers for Disease Control provides national estimates based on the 13 states that do keep birth defect records.

US Orofacial Cleft Statistics

Overall, the United States’ most common congenital condition┬áremains Down syndrome, a group of associated characteristics caused by an abnormal duplication of the 21st chromosome. According to the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, an estimated 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome every year in America.

Orofacial clefts, a category of birth defects that includes both isolated cleft palate and cleft lip (with or without cleft palate), occur even more frequently. The CDC estimates that approximately 7,088 babies are born each year with an orofacial cleft.

Babies are born with a cleft lip (with or without cleft palate) almost twice as often as those born with an isolated cleft palate. Between 2004 and 2006, an average of 2,651 children were born with cleft palates, while 4,437 were born with cleft lips.

  • One out of every 1,509 babies are born with isolated cleft palates, while
  • One out of every 902 babies are born with cleft lip, with or without cleft palate.

Clefts in which only one side of the nose is separated are more often than “bilateral” ones, ones in which both sides are cleft. Incidentally, unilateral clefts are more likely to occur on the left side of a child’s nose.

Orofacial Clefts & Genetic Syndromes

Despite the possibility of a cleft being part of a syndrome, the University of California Davis’ Children’s Hospital reports that the vast majority of orofacial clefts are isolated, unaccompanied by other congenital defects. 95% of babies with cleft lip and 85% of babies with cleft palate are born with no other abnormalities.

According to the March of Dimes, orofacial clefts have been associated with over 400 different genetic syndromes. Most of these syndromes (“syndrome” denotes a group of symptoms that normally occur together) are extremely rare.

For example, Pierre Robin Sequence, a condition characterized by a small or backset lower jaw that is usually accompanied by cleft palate, affects anywhere from one out of 2,000 to one out of every 30,000 children born in the US. Many syndromes that include orofacial clefts occur so infrequently that there are no statistics to indicate their actual incidence.

If your baby is not born with a genetic syndrome, and neither you nor your partner has an orofacial cleft, the chances of a subsequent child being born with one are low: between 2 and 5%.

Who Is More Likely To Be Born With An Orofacial Cleft?

The University of Texas reports that orofacial clefts are most common in Asian and Native American populations, and least common in African Americans.

Taken together, cleft lip and cleft palate occur more frequently in male children, although females are more likely to be born with isolated cleft palates.

State-Specific Data On Cleft Lip & Cleft Palate

Below, we’ve presented information from the 13 state┬áprograms tasked with tracking birth defects.

Arizona

Between 2000 and 2010, an average of 104 babies were born with cleft lip with and without cleft palate each year in Arizona. In that same period, around 59 children were born with isolated cleft palate annually.

Making Arizona’s orofacial cleft incidence rates:

  • Cleft lip: 11.26 out of every 10,000 live births
  • Cleft palate: 6.40 out of every 10,000 live births

Colorado

In 2010, 83 babies were born with cleft lip in Colorado. 62 were born with isolated cleft palate.

Colorado’s orofacial cleft incidence rates:

  • Cleft lip: 12.06 out of every 10,000 live births
  • Cleft palate: 8.99 out of every 10,000 live births

Florida

Between 1998 and 2007, an annual average of 181 babies were born with a cleft lip with and without cleft palate in Florida. The yearly average for cleft palate without cleft lip came to 110 cases.

Florida’s orofacial cleft incidence rates:

  • Cleft lip: 8.50 out of every 10,000 live births
  • Cleft palate: 5.13 out of every 10,000 live births

Illinois

Between 2005 and 2009, there were 428 babies born in Illinois with isolated cleft palate, making an annual average of around 86 cases. For cleft lip with and without cleft palate, 780 babies were born in those five years, an average of 156 affected children every year.

Illinois’ orofacial cleft incidence rates:

  • Cleft lip: 8.8 out of every 10,000 live births
  • Cleft palate: 4.8 out of every 10,000 live births

Kentucky

In 2002, Kentucky’s incidence rate for cleft lip with or without cleft palate was 15.1 out of every 10,000 live births. That was a 19% decrease from the four years previous, which saw an average incidence of 18.55 cases for every 10,000 births.

Louisiana

Louisiana’s Birth Defects Monitoring Network has not published any publicly-available reports as of now. The CDC reports that 62,000 babies are born every year in the state. One out of every 33, around 1,800, are born with birth defects.

Michigan

Between 1992 and 2006, 5.7 out of every 10,000 babies in Michigan were born with an isolated cleft palate, while 10 out of every 10,000 were born with a cleft lip.

You can find more information at the Michigan Department of Community Health’s website.

Minnesota

From 2006 to 2009, an estimated 10 out of every 10,000 babies born in Minnesota had cleft lip with and without cleft palate. 5.7 out of 10,000 were born with isolated cleft palate. Note that these numbers are based only on data from two counties; Minnesota is composed of 87 in total.

To learn more, visit Minnesota’s Birth Defects Monitoring & Analysis Program.

New Hampshire

Every year, an average of 12,000 babies are born in New Hampshire:

  • One out of every 1,300 are born with a cleft lip
  • One out of every 2,000 are born with an isolated cleft palate

In 2010, approximately 11 children were born with cleft lip (with and without cleft palate) in New Hampshire. Around 10 babies were born with solely a cleft palate.

More data is available from the New Hampshire Birth Conditions Program.

New Jersey

While New Jersey has published statistical reports on neural tube defects, jaundice and congenital heart defects, the state has not released any information on the incidence of orofacial clefts.

Ohio

Ohio’s last report was published in 2012, and compiled information gathered in 2008. In that year, 141 babies were born with cleft lip and 118 were born with isolated cleft palate, making Ohio’s incidence rates:

  • Cleft lip: 9.5 out of every 10,000 live births
  • Cleft palate: 7.9 out of every 10,000 live births

You can find more at Ohio Connections for Children with Special Needs.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s latest information comes from the years 1994 through 1998. In 1994:

  • 4.8 out of every 10,000 babies were born with cleft lip
  • 8.3 out of every 10,000 were born with cleft palate
  • 7.4 out of 10,000 were born with both cleft lip and palate

By 1998, the incidence of orofacial clefts had decreased overall:

  • 5.2 out of every 10,000 babies born with cleft lip
  • 6.4 out of every 10,000 born with cleft palate
  • 6.2 out of every 10,000 born with both cleft lip and palate

Note that Oklahoma’s statistics include both live and stillbirths.

More information can be found at Oklahoma’s Birth Defects Registry.

Rhode Island

Between 2008 and 2012, a total of 42 babies were born with cleft lip (with and without cleft palate) in Rhode Island. 25 children were born with an isolated cleft palate.

Rhode Island’s orofacial cleft incidence rate:

  • Cleft lip: 7.7 out of every 10,000 live births
  • Cleft palate: 4.6 out of every 10,000 live births