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What is a cleft lip or palate?

If your child is born with a cleft lip or palate, you should know that it is a common birth defect that could be caused by genetics or problems during your pregnancy. Some of the things that can cause cleft palates or cleft lips include drug use, viruses, exposure to toxins or genes passed down from each parent.

The palate or lip being cleft can affect the way a baby looks, cause ear infections or result in problems with speech or feeding. In the most severe cases, surgery might be needed to repair or alter the facial structure. It's possible that medical tests will be needed to rule out other health conditions that could come alongside with a cleft palate or lip.

Surgery is often needed to close the cleft lip and is done when the child is only 6 weeks to 9 months old. If the cleft lip has affected the nasal area, then more surgeries may be needed later in life. In the case of a cleft palate, it typically needs to be closed within the first year of the child's life. Doing this helps the child's speech develop normally. A prosthetic device could be used in the meantime to help your baby eat correctly.

Hearing problems are common in children with cleft lips or cleft palates. Your doctor should advocate for your child and seek a hearing test early in your child's life.

If you believe that your child has suffered this birth defect because of drugs you were prescribed during your pregnancy, it's important to relay your concerns to your doctors. Your legal team may be able to help you get the compensation you need to help get your child the best care.

Source: Medline Plus, "Cleft lip and palate," accessed Nov. 01, 2016

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