What is Cleft Lip and Palate?
- One of the most common birth anomalies in the world, affecting approximately one in 700 children
- A cleft (or opening) occurs during pregnancy when the baby’s lip and/or palate tissue do not form properly
- Affects much more than a child’s physical appearance – complications can include difficulty with feeding, hearing, speaking, social development and more
- Typically caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, but more research is still needed
Before the Cleft Repair Surgery
- Learning about cleft lip and palate is an essential first step in helping children born with it. Our partners work with local hospitals and community centres to raise awareness about what cleft lip and palate is and how it’s treated.
- Infants born with cleft palate are usually unable to breastfeed and require feeding support to reach a healthy weight (which is necessary before they can have their surgery).
- Special techniques are sometimes required to help reshape the nose, gums and lips before surgery, which minimizes facial scarring and the need for additional surgeries as the child gets older.
- Cleft still carries a lot of shame and stigma in many parts of the world. To help parents and caregivers cope and prepare for a long treatment process. Counselling is essential in helping parents understand their child’s treatment plan and feel invested in their full, long-term recovery.
After the Cleft Repair Surgery
- Many patients require up to 20 years of support after their cleft lip and palate has been repaired!
- Because fluid can build up behind the eardrum of children born with cleft lip and palate, hearing assessments are needed to prevent hearing loss.
- Speech is another major challenge. Many children will struggle with nasal-sounding speech or have difficulty pronouncing certain sounds. This can be corrected through regular speech therapy.
- Beyond medical challenges, many children face social hurdles including low self-esteem, bullying, discrimination or delayed social development. Counselling support helps children and their families understand and cope with these challenges.
Can Children Born with Cleft Lip and Palate Lead Normal, Healthy Lives?
Absolutely! Cleft lip and palate is completely treatable, as long as comprehensive services like safe surgery, speech therapy, dental care, orthodontics and counselling are available and accessible.
By adopting this comprehensive approach – one that can span up to 20 years – children
are given the chance to smile, speak and build happy, healthy lives!