How can you lower your baby’s risk of getting a cleft lip?

July 7, 2015 Providence Health Team

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4,400 infants in the United States are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate and about 2,700 infants are born with cleft palate alone. If you’re pregnant, it’s important to know about these birth defects so you can take steps before and during pregnancy to reduce your baby’s risk.

What is a cleft lip?

A cleft lip happens when the tissue that makes up the upper lip doesn’t join completely during pregnancy, causing a small slit or a large opening from the lip into the nose.

What is a cleft palate?

A cleft palate happens when the tissue that makes up the roof (palate) of the mouth doesn’t join completely during pregnancy, causing an opening in either both the front and back parts of the roof of the mouth or just a part of it.


An ultrasound during pregnancy can diagnose a cleft lip and/or cleft palate.


While not all birth defects, like cleft lip and cleft palate, can be prevented, you can take steps to increase your chances of having a healthy baby. These include:

  • Getting 400 micrograms of folic acid every day during pregnancy
  • Avoiding alcohol, smoking and illegal drugs while pregnant
  • Talking to your medical provider about any medications and supplements you plan to take during your pregnancy

Many birth defects develop very early during pregnancy so it’s important to see a doctor or midwife as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. If you haven’t found a provider yet, Providence can help you find a provider who’s right for you.

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