Finding out that your child will be born with a cleft palate may leave you feeling stunned and a bit unsure of what is to come. Usually, this news is delivered well before your baby is born, which means you will have time to come to terms with the diagnosis and work to understand it before your baby actually arrives. But in your stunned state, you may not have thought of questions to ask the doctor during your last consultation, and you may not have really absorbed the information they told you, either. To help improve your understanding, here are some questions you probably have about cleft palate — and their answers.
What deformities does a cleft palate cause?
A cleft palate is a congenital birth defect, which means your baby will be born with it. The palate is the top of the mouth. In the typical person, the palate consists of a layer of bone and a layer of soft tissue. The palate forms from two separate pieces of tissue, which are supposed to come together in the middle when the fetus is only a few months into development. If these two pieces of tissue do not come together properly, your child will have a cleft palate — which essentially means there is a hole in their palate. This hole means that the mouth and the sinus cavity are connected rather than being isolated from each other.
What does cleft palate look like?
If your child has only a cleft palate, you won't be able to tell just by looking at them. However, many children are born with a cleft lip and a cleft palate, which means the upper lip also fails to fuse together in the middle. If your child has a cleft lip as well, they will basically look like they have a little slit in the top of their lip, leading to the nose.
What causes cleft palate?
Researchers are not entirely sure what causes cleft palate. They think that a wide array of factors can contribute to its development. Certain genes make a child more likely to be born with the condition. There may be some environmental toxins that increase the risk if the mother is exposed to them during the early stages of fetal development.
Do not blame yourself for your child's cleft palate. Chances are high that this is a happenstance problem and not anything you could have had control over.
What problems does a cleft palate cause?
A cleft palate mainly causes problems with feeding and speech. Children may struggle to latch onto a nipple and may need to be fed with a special bottle until their cleft palate can be treated. As they grow up, they may need speech therapy, even if their cleft palate has already been repaired by the time they begin to speak.
How is a cleft palate treated?
The good news is that treatment for cleft palate has come a long way in recent years. Nearly all cases are repairable with surgery. Your doctor will analyse your child's case to see how soon surgery may be recommended. Some children can have surgery fairly quickly, whereas others may need to wait. During the surgical procedure, the surgeon will join together the two halves of the palate, sealing the hole. If your child also has a cleft lip, that may be repaired during a separate surgical procedure.
Hopefully, you now have answers to some of your most burning questions about cleft palate. If you have any further concerns, do not be afraid to reach out to your doctor. They generally want to make sure you are comfortable with the situation and have all of your concerns addressed before the birth.