Cleft lip and cleft palate are the two most common forms of orofacial clefts found in Florida. These types of clefts occur when the structures of the mouth fail to form properly. This typically occurs early in fetal development between four and ten weeks after conception. Cleft lip and palate may occur separately or together.
A cleft lip involves the space between the upper lip and the nostrils. Clefts of the palate may occur in the front of the palate, which involves underlying bone, or in the back area involving soft tissue. Infants born with a cleft typically undergo surgery and receive speech therapy and orthodontic care.
Some studies suggest that a woman who smokes during pregnancy may have an increased risk for delivering an infant with an orofacial cleft. In some studies, the intake of high doses of folic acid before and during the first trimester of pregnancy has been shown to prevent the occurrence of orofacial clefts.
*Birth defects image credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities