If you are planning your pregnancy and want to know about potential risks that may affect your unborn child, you should be aware that the CDC researchers have recently reported findings about some risk factors for craniofacial defects like cleft lip, cleft palate, and craniosynostosis.
What is a cleft lip / palate?
Cleft lip and/or palate are common birth defects in many populations. It is most commonly seen in Native American and Asian communities. A cleft lip is a lip that is not closed. It usually looks like an upper lip that has a triangular gap that can reach all the way to the nose. A cleft palate occurs when the roof of the mouth is not closed. Children with a cleft palate will therefore have a gap in the roof of their mouth. Although it is common for children that have a cleft palate to have a cleft lip, many children are also born with one or the other.
Craniosynostosis is a condition that occurs when the bones in the baby’s skull fuse too early.
What are the risks associated with having a cleft lip or palate? How is the defect corrected? The primary concern for children born with a cleft lip or palate is ensuring that they can be fed properly without causing any other complications. There may also be a risk to their hearing because the defect can impact the development of part of the inner ear. Then of course there is the risk of speech problems and the impact on a child cosmetically.
The dentists at Midway Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, in Alpharetta, Georgia agree that the best time to schedule corrective surgery is between 3 and 6 months of age. Corrective surgery for a cleft lip normally consists of a procedure that reshapes the lip and sews up the area that was a gap so that it no longer shows. For cleft palates, there are a number of options available. One of those options is to put a plate in over the roof of the mouth that can be adjusted to help the gap close over time. There are teams of doctors including oral surgeons, plastic surgeons, and ENTs in the Atlanta area who can guide parents during the surgical process.
What are the risk factors for women planning their pregnancy?
Risk factors are behaviors that can increase the likelihood that a child may be born with a defect like a cleft lip or palate. The dentists in the Alpharetta-Cumming area are familiar with CDC guidelines and can help advise women about specific risk factors. An ultrasound from your doctor or at Northside Forsyth Hospital can show craniofacial defects.
Here are some of the risk factors:
Smoking: It may be a hard habit to quit, but smoking is an activity that has been proven to increase the chance that your child will be born with a cleft lip or a cleft palate. Studies have shown that women who smoked the month before they became pregnant through the end of the first trimester
are more likely to have a baby with a cleft lip. If you do plan to stop smoking and use patches or gum to end your habit, you should consult your doctor first if you are pregnant.
Diabetes: It has been shown that having diabetes increases the likelihood that your children may be born with a cleft lip or palate. By working closely with your obstetrician during your pregnancy, you should be able to put together a program that will allow you to be very careful to avoid the effects of diabetes before your child is born.
Maternal Thyroid Disease: Studies show that women who have thyroid disease or are being treated for thyroid disease have a higher incident of having a baby with craniosynostosis.
Certain Medications: Many women take fertility medications to help them become pregnant. It has been shown that women who take clomiphene citrate before pregnancy are more likely to have a baby with craniosynostosis. You should contact your doctor about every prescription that you take to verify that they are not going to affect your pregnancy. Overall, chances are good that your child will not be born with a cleft lip or palate. By looking at the risk factors and adjusting your behaviors accordingly, you can reduce the likelihood even more.