July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month, which shines a light on one of the most common birth defects today: facial clefts. This condition occurs in one of every 600 births in the United States. Clefts of the lip and palate (CLP) occur when these sections do not completely fuse during pregnancy. They can be complex conditions, affecting a child’s appearance, self-esteem and ability to breathe and eat properly. Though the cause of clefts is not completely clear, one major factor is smoking during pregnancy. About one in five babies born with CLP has a mother who smoked, according to the March of Dimes.
A cleft lip can be repaired when the child reaches three to four months of age and 10 pounds. Cleft palates require the child to be slightly older, nine to 12 months of age. If not properly treated, issues related to hearing, speech and learning could occur.
Treatment for CLP is not a “one and done” fix; the patient will need surgical and dental adjustments throughout childhood. Fortunately, with proper treatment, most children born with CLP thrive with little or no physical indication of the original defect. In fact, Lola, the little girl on the cover of this month’s issue of Cincinnati Parent, had CLP surgery at Cincinnati Shriners Hospital. Lola had two surgeries to repair her cleft lip and palate. She has a slight scar that is often unnoticed on her lip. Her treatment certainly has not stopped her from enjoying the beach and being a princess – two of her favorite activities.
Shriners Hospital for Children – Cincinnati is a designated Cleft Lip and Palate Team, with their five-year certification recently renewed by the Cleft Palate Foundation and the American Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Association. Cincinnati Shriners recognizes that each cleft is unique, so every patient sees a team of highly skilled professionals, including board-certified plastic surgeons, to address physical, social and psychological needs from surgery through adolescence.
As always, Cincinnati Shriners Hospital is committed to providing specialized care regardless of a family’s ability to pay. A physician referral is not required. If you know a child who needs treatment, contact the hospital at (855) 206-2096 or [email protected].