Cleft lip is a term used to describe a separation in the lip that occurs when the lip does not form completely before birth. Normally, the tissues that make up the lip join together between the fourth and seventh weeks of pregnancy.
A cleft lip can range from a small notching in the lip to a large opening from the lip up through the nose. It may occur with or without a cleft palate, which is an opening or split in the roof of the mouth. Cleft lip can affect a person’s physical appearance, as well as functions such as eating and speaking.
How common is cleft lip?
An estimated 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip each year in the U.S.
Who gets cleft lip?
Cleft lips occur more often in boys than in girls. In the U.S., they are most common among Native Americans and least common among African-Americans.
Cleft lips may be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. A woman who has diabetes, is obese during pregnancy, or has a family history of cleft lip may be more likely to have a child with a cleft lip. Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or taking certain medications while pregnant may also increase the risk.
How is cleft lip diagnosed?
A cleft lip is usually noticeable immediately after birth. It may be diagnosed before birth through a routine ultrasound.
A cleft lip can appear only as a small notching in the lip or extend from the lip through upper gum and palate into the bottom of the nose.
A cleft lip can be corrected with surgery, which is performed under general anesthesia.
During this procedure, the surgeon makes incisions on both sides of the cleft and creates flaps of tissue, which are then stitched together.
Cleft lip repair is usually done during the first 12 months of age.
Information and Resources about Cleft Lip
- Date of last review: February 17, 2017