While most causes of cleft lip and cleft palate are unknown, certain factors may heighten your baby's risk. It is not fully understood if a combination of risk factors need to be present before a cleft lip develops, or if only a single risk factor needs to be present. Also known as orofacial clefts, these birth defects are common, and the incidence is higher in males. It is essential that orofacial clefts be treated as soon as possible because they can cause feeding problems, choking risks, and self-esteem issues as the child gets older. Here are some common and rare risk factors for orofacial cleft problems.
Some of the most common causes of orofacial clefts include family history. If one or both of the parents or grandparents had an orofacial cleft, then the baby may be at a greater risk. Certain maternal diseases can also raise the risk for cleft lip. For example, if you have diabetes that was diagnosed prior to your pregnancy, your baby is more likely to develop cleft disorders than babies whose mothers do not have diabetes.
While diabetes is a risk factor, gestational diabetes, which is diabetes that develops during pregnancy and then goes away after the baby is born, is not thought to raise the risk as much. Also, mothers who have seizure disorders and take antiseizure medications during the first trimester of pregnancy may be more likely to give birth to a child with an orofacial cleft.
Nutritional deficiencies, especially folic acid deficiencies, may also raise the risk of giving birth to a newborn with orofacial clefts. Because of this, your doctor may recommend that you take prenatal vitamins. Not only do prenatal vitamins help reduce the risk of cleft palate and lip, but they also help reduce the risk of other birth defects such as spina bifida.
Orofacial clefts may also be linked to certain congenital or genetic syndromes. Many genetic syndromes can be diagnosed during pregnancy, however, the presence of a genetic mutation or syndrome does not automatically mean that your baby will be born with an orofacial cleft.
A rare disease known as Pierre Robin sequence causes jaw and tongue deformities, as well as orofacial clefts. Genetic mutations are thought to cause this disease, which can also lead to breathing problems and choking.
If your child is born with a cleft lip, follow the pediatrician's treatment recommendations. When orofacial defects are treated as soon as possible, your child may be less likely to experience problems such as hearing loss, frequent ear infections, eating difficulties, and speech impairments.