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Cleft Palate

What is it?

Cleft palate (PAL-hut) is a common birth defect (problem). With cleft palate, there is a hole in the roof (palate) of your child's mouth. The palate has a bony part (hard palate) in front and a soft part (soft palate) in back. The cleft (opening) may in the hard palate, soft palate, or both. The cleft may be on one or both sides of your childʼs palate. If it is on one side of the roof of the mouth, it is called unilateral (u-knee-LAHT-urr-al). If it is on both sides of the roof of the mouth, it is called bilateral (bye-LAHT-urr-al). The uvula (U-vew-luh) may also be split. The uvula is the tissue hanging down in the back of your child's throat.

Picture of underside of mouth of cleft palate

What causes cleft palate?

In many cases, caregivers do not know why cleft palate happens. Your child may be more likely to have a cleft palate if a family member had one. The cleft happens early in pregnancy, often before the mother knows she is pregnant. Medications, infections, smoking or alcohol taken during pregnancy may cause clefts.

What care will my child need?

  • Your child may have problems sucking and gaining weight because of the cleft palate. Caregivers will teach you how to use special bottles, nipples, or other supplies to feed your child. A cleft palate can be fixed with surgery. Talk with caregivers to find out when your child can have surgery. Surgery is done as early as possible. This may decrease your childʼs chance of having problems eating, growing, and talking. When surgery is done depends on your childʼs health, weight, and the kind of cleft he has. Your child may need more than one surgery as he grows.

  • Feeding problems may allow liquids to back up into your child's ear canals. This increases the chance of ear infections, which may cause long-term hearing problems. The cleft may also cause your child to have problems speaking normally. Your child may need speech therapy as he grows.

  • Your child may need special dental care as he grows. This may help his teeth grow in the right way.

Support:

You may feel sad, ashamed, or angry because your child has a cleft palate. You may blame yourself and think you have done something wrong. These feelings are normal. There is nothing you could have done to prevent your child's cleft palate. Talk about your feelings with a caregiver or with someone close to you. Ask caregivers about support groups for parents of children with cleft palates. Such groups may help give you support and teach you more about your child's condition. You can contact the following organizations for more information:

  • Cleft Palate Foundation
    1504 E. Franklin St, Ste. 102
    Chapel Hill , North Carolina 27514-2820
    Phone: 1- 919 - 933-9044
    Web Address: http://www.cleftline.org

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.

Copyright © 2012. Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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