FRIDAY, April 29 (HealthDay News) -- Prenatal diagnosis, early
surgery and well-coordinated care by a team of specialists are
vital for children born with cleft lip and/or cleft palate, experts
Cleft lip and/or palate -- which occur in the first trimester of
pregnancy when the roof of the mouth fails to fuse properly --
affects more than 7,000 babies born in the United States each year
and is the second most common birth defect.
Prenatal ultrasounds can detect the majority of cases. As soon
as a diagnosis is made, doctors should counsel parents in order to
give them time to prepare emotionally before the birth of the baby,
experts say. Doctors and parents also need to develop a treatment
plan, according to Dr. Richard Redett, a pediatric plastic and
reconstructive surgeon and co-director of the Cleft &
Craniofacial Clinic at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
He noted that research has shown that early surgery helps ensure
proper speech development. Surgery is most effective if done before
the baby is one year old.
Post-surgical treatment should include ear-nose-throat
specialists, speech therapists, pediatric orthodontists and
psychologists, Redett said.
He and his colleagues offered some tips to prevent cleft
- Women planning to become pregnant should take 400 micrograms of
folic acid a day.
- Pregnant women should not smoke and should avoid secondhand
- Pregnant women also need to tell their doctors about any
prescription or over-the-counter medications they are taking or
planning to take, since certain medicines can cause or increase the
risk of birth defects.
- Patients with a family history of cleft palate should talk with
their physician about a genetic work-up.
The March of Dimes has more about
cleft lip and palate.