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Diagnosis: Understanding Cleft

Girl with cleft lip
child with bilateral cleft lip

What Are Clefts?

Clefts occur when certain body parts and structures do not fuse together during early fetal development. Clefts can involve the lip and/or the roof of the mouth. Clefts can be unilateral, involving only one side of the mouth and face, or bilateral, involving both sides. Clefts are one of the most common birth differences; globally, an estimated 1 in every 700 newborns has a cleft lip and/or palate. In India, nearly 35,000+ children are born with clefts every year.

ultrasound print

How are Clefts Diagnosed?

Clefts can be diagnosed as early as the 13th week of pregnancy. A cleft lip can be seen on an ultrasound, but a cleft palate is much more difficult to detect. Early diagnosis can help families understand the care their new baby may potentially need. If the cleft is not detected in utero, it will be seen at birth, and the family should immediately be referred to an experienced cleft care team.

girl with cleft

What Causes Clefts?

While we can’t know why any given baby is born with a cleft, we do know that clefts are often caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. A cleft is never the fault of the parents or the child and can always be treated.