Help promote “Cleft lip and palate Week.”

Special week to boost cleft lip kids’ confidence?

Americans devote many weeks every year to awareness efforts or consciousness raising re this or that health issue. Why not have a special week for cleft kids. After all, cleft lips and palates are the most common birth defect, after heart defects.

Not every cleft kid has a family able to pay for a cleft camp in their state or a gathering somewhere across the country for cleft kids. So, at least a special week, or even a special day, for such kids is a good thing.

A national week for clefts doesn’t necessarily  mean that every state or every town has to be involved in some way.The celebration can start small and grow to encompass more and more geographical turf. In the UK, the Aberdeen area of northern Scotland just joined in on the fun, even though the UK has had a week in May honoring cleft kids for years.


Baby with recently repaired cleft lip

Promote “Cleft Lip & Palate Week” in the U.S.

So, please, send an e-mail,  a Tweet, whatever, to friends, politicians, and opinion leaders advocating for a Cleft Week in the US. While you’re at it, ask them to do the same.

You might borrow some or all of all of the below facts re clefts for your note to your Congressperson or one of the American cleft lip and palate associations listed on the Resources page of this site (click the Resources tab on the menu bar).

If you’re curious about other health awareness weeks around the globe, go to the health aware site.

Facts you might want to work into your note/letter:

From the Center for Disease Control: 

Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form properly during pregnancy. Together, these birth defects commonly are called “orofacial clefts”. These birth defects happen early during pregnancy. A baby can have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both a cleft lip and cleft palate.

Facial Development

A baby’s head forms early during pregnancy. To make the face, body tissue and special cells from each side of the head grow toward the center of the face and join together. This joining of tissue forms the facial features, like the lips and mouth.

Cleft Lip

The lip forms between the fourth and seventh weeks of pregnancy. A cleft lip happens if the tissue that makes up the lip does not join completely before birth. This results in an opening in the upper lip. The opening in the lip can be a small slit or it can be a large opening that goes through the lip into the nose. A cleft lip can be on one or both sides of the lip or in the middle of the lip, which occurs very rarely. Children with a cleft lip also can have a cleft palate.

Cleft Palate

The roof of the mouth (palate) is formed between the sixth and ninth weeks of pregnancy. A cleft palate happens if the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth does not join together completely during pregnancy.  For some babies, both the front and back parts of the palate are open. For other babies, only part of the palate is open.


CDC recently estimated that, each year in the United States, about 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate.1  Isolated orofacial clefts, or clefts that occur with no other major birth defects, are one of the most common types of birth defects in the United States.1 Depending on the cleft type, the rate of isolated orofacial clefts can vary from 50% to 80%.2-4


The causes of orofacial clefts among most infants are unknown. Some children have a cleft lip or cleft palate because of changes in their genes. Cleft lip and cleft palate are thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other factors, such as things the mother comes in contact with in her environment, or what the mother eats or drinks, or certain medications she uses during pregnancy.

Recently, CDC reported on important findings from research studies about some factors that increase the chance of having a baby with an orofacial cleft:

  • Smoking―Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a baby with an orofacial cleft than women who do not smoke.2-3
  • Diabetes―Women with diabetes diagnosed before pregnancy have an increased risk of having a child with a cleft lip with or without cleft palate, compared to women who did not have diabetes.5
  • Use of certain medicines―Women who used certain medicines to treat epilepsy, such as topiramate or valproic acid, during the first trimester (the first 3 months) of pregnancy have an increased risk of having a baby with cleft lip with or without cleft palate, compared to women who didn’t take these medicines.6-7


Cleft Palate Foundation info:
A cleft lip is a birth defect in which a baby’s upper lip doesn’t form completely and has an opening in it. A cleft palate is a similar birth defect in which a baby’s palate (roof of the mouth) doesn’t form completely and has an opening in it. These birth defects are called oral clefts.

How does a cleft lip affect a baby’s face?

Some babies with cleft lip have just a small notch in the upper lip. Others have a complete opening or hole in the lip that goes through the upper gum to the bottom of the nose. A cleft lip can happen on one or both sides of a baby’s mouth.

How does a cleft palate affect a baby’s mouth?

A cleft palate can affect the soft palate (the soft tissue at the back of the roof of the mouth) or the hard palate (the bony front part of the roof of the mouth). A cleft palate can happen on one or both sides of a baby’s palate.

Do cleft lip and cleft palate always happen together?

No. Some babies have just a cleft lip. But most babies with a cleft lip also have a cleft palate. Some babies have only a cleft palate, which is called an isolated cleft palate.

What problems can oral clefts cause?

Babies and children with oral clefts may have:

When do oral clefts happen?

Oral clefts happen very early in pregnancy. Your baby’s lips are formed by about 6 weeks of pregnancy. Your baby’s palate is formed by about 10 weeks of pregnancy. Oral clefts happen when your baby’s lips or palate or both don’t form completely.

What causes oral clefts?

We’re not sure what causes oral clefts. Some possible causes are:

  • Changes in your baby’s genes. Genes are part of your baby’s cells that store instructions for the way the body grows and works. They provide the basic plan for how your baby develops. Genes are passed from parents to children.
  • Not getting enough folic acid before pregnancy. Folic acid is a vitamin that can help protect your baby from birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects. It also may reduce the risk of oral clefts by about 25 percent.
  • Taking certain medicines, like anti-seizure medicine, during pregnancy
  • Smoking during pregnancy. Smoking causes 1 in 5 (20 percent) oral clefts.
  • Drinking alcohol during pregnancy
  • Having certain infections during pregnancy

 How common are oral clefts?

About 6,800 babies in the United States are born with oral clefts each year.

  • Cleft lip and cleft palate affects about 4,200 babies each year. It is more common in Asians and certain Native Americans.
  • Nearly 2,600 babies are born with isolated cleft palate each year. Isolated cleft palate affects babies of all races about the same.


Info about the Cleft Collective next time.


To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.

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