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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Are facial disfigurements such as cleft palate hereditary?

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  • Sharon Moore

    Speech Pathologist

    I am a Speech Pathologist with 30 years clinical experience, working over the years with a wide range of clients with communication and swallowing disorders. … View Profile

    Cleft lip and  palate are facial and intraoral malformations that can occur very early in the first trimester of pregnancy, while the baby is developing inutero.Various combinations of cleft lip and/or palate can occur because the lip and the palate develop separately: hence it is possible to have a cleft lip without a cleft palate, a cleft palate without a cleft lip, or both together.Cleft lip, with or without cleft palate, affects one in 700 babies annually. Clefts occur more often in children of Asian, Latino, or Native American descent. Compared with girls, twice as many boys have a cleft lip, both with and without a cleft palate. However, compared with boys, twice as many girls have cleft palate without a cleft lip.
    In many cases, the cause of cleft lip and cleft palate is unknown and cannot be prevented. Most scientists believe clefts are due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There appears to be a greater chance of clefting in a newborn if a sibling, parent, or relative has had the problem. Cleft palate belongs to the family of Craniofacial disorders and can recur in families, however the risk is vartiable and depends on multiple environmental and genetic factorsAnother potential cause may be related to a medication  taken during the pregnancy.Cleft lip and cleft palate may also occur as a result of exposure to viruses or chemicals while the fetus is developing in the womb.

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