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  Category: Articles » Health & Fitness » Children's Health » Article

The Cleft Defect in Infants

By Jacob Mabille

On the average, one in every one thousand babies are born with a defect known as cleft lip and/or palate. A cleft lip is a split that runs through the center of the lip and may extend into the nostril. A cleft palate may separate the soft and hard muscular tissues and /or the entire roof of the mouth. A child may be born with either defect or a combination.

The cause is not completely understood although it is believed that certain chemicals or medications may be a factor. There seems to be an increased likelihood that a child may be born with the condition if a family member was also born with such a defect. The deformity occurs early on in the pregnancy during the first trimester.

This condition can be very traumatic for the parents as well as the child. Special feeding devices are needed since the cleft deformity affects the child's ability to suck properly. Luckily the deformity can be corrected with surgery. In the past when corrective surgery was not an option, cleft lip was even more devastating because children had no choice except to go through life with their deformity. The simple acts of eating and talking were challenges for children afflicted by this condition. They suffered emotionally as well because they were considered to be different and not easily accepted by other children.

Thankfully now the condition can be corrected and children no longer need to suffer throughout their lives due to such a deformity. Even so, cleft lip and/or palate still requires quite a bit of medical care. Correction of cleft lip and cleft palate requires a team of specialists and continued care following the surgery. Depending on the surgeon's assessment of the condition and what is in the best interest of the child, surgery for cleft lip may be performed when the child is anywhere from a few days to a few months old. Surgery to correct a cleft palate is usually done around the age of two. But the road to recovery does not end with surgery.

Children with this condition normally require more than one surgery to correct the defect and the child's progress needs to be monitored. Children with this condition usually require the services of an orthodontist to ensure proper alignment and growth of the teeth. The care of a speech pathologist may also be enlisted since there may be difficulty with speaking. Speech classes may be necessary in order to ensure that the child's speech develops properly. Children who are older when treatment to correct the cleft defect begins may also be counseled by a psychologist who can help them with any emotional stress that may have resulted from their condition.

Cleft lip and/or palate no longer has to be a lifelong condition thanks to skillful surgery. Where this condition used to be a fairly traumatic experience for parents and children alike, children can now lead a normal life without feeling that they are different. They no longer have to carry the emotional stigma that can be caused by the condition of cleft lip or palate. So parents, don't despair. There is help for you and your child.
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