In early pregnancy, different parts of a baby’s face develop separately and then join together. If some parts do not join properly, the baby is born with a cleft.

A cleft lip can range from a little notch in the colored part of the lip to a complete separation of the upper lip which can extend up and into the nose. A cleft palate is a gap in the roof of the mouth. Cleft lip and palate can occur separately or together.

There is comprehensive treatment available for babies born with a cleft which is provided by dedicated cleft specialists. Surgery involves taking the muscles and tissues that didn’t join up in the womb and putting them back together.

Cleft lip and palate is not associated with learning difficulties or other developmental issues, although in around 15% of cases a cleft occurs as part of a syndrome which may have other implications. In the majority of cases, even with extra surgeries and medical appointments, a baby with a cleft will grow up just as happy and healthy as any other child.

The exact cause of the this is not known and it is said to be multifactorial. Scientists have learned that there are many possible causes for clefts. Research is underway to discover more about these causes. Sometimes clefts occur in combination with other problems which are associated with a syndrome. Meeting with a special doctor known as a geneticist can help you understand the possible causes of clefts.

Clefts are among the most common problems found in newborn babies. Annually in Pakistan, over 9000 newborns (or about one in 530 babies) are born with a cleft.

A cleft lip usually can be repaired during the first few months of life. A cleft palate usually can be repaired some months later. The exact time of these repairs depends on the baby’s health as determined by the doctor who does the surgery.

Babies with cleft lips alone usually have few problems feeding, while those with cleft palates often have more difficulty. Use of special bottles and nipples, along with careful positioning of the baby, are usually helpful. Your pediatrician should refer you to a cleft palate treatment team, as soon as your baby is born, for proper guidance in feeding.

If the cleft affects only the lip, the teeth will probably not be affected. If the cleft affects the gums where teeth grow, however, the care of dental specialists will probably be needed.

If the cleft affects only the lip, speech problems are unlikely. However, many children with cleft palate need the help of a speech therapist, and some may need an additional operation to improve speech. The most common problem these children experience is an overly nasal tone to their speech.

There is no relationship between intellectual disability and cleft lip and palate. However, if the cleft is a part of a cluster or other problems, learning ability is sometimes affected.

If the cleft affects only the lip, the teeth will probably not be affected. If the cleft affects the gums where teeth grow, however, the care of dental specialists will probably be needed.

It is natural for parents to be upset at this time. Feelings of concern, anxiety, and grief are not unusual. Your family physician and the hospital staff members will guide you to a team of specialists who will provide you and your baby with the help you will need. Remember that your baby is probably normal in every other way and can be treated like any other child in most aspects of his/her care.

Most parents feel that telling others is a little difficult. If the people closest to you can visit while the mother and baby are still in the hospital, it may be easier. You should try to tell them about the baby as honestly and directly as you can.


Cleft Hospital Pakistan is a world class facility for complete treatment of Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate Patients.Cleft Hospital is a Non-Profit Organization Dedicated to Improve the Quality of Life of Infants, Children and Adults with Cleft Lip and Palate or Craniofacial Conditions.

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