Cleft lip in the newborn: what it is and how to intervene

Fonte: shutterstock

Cleft lip

Il cleft labbro (labioschisi) and cleft palate are openings or cracks in the upper lip, palate, or both (cleft lip and palate). In particular, the cleft lip is created during pregnancy and is caused by a lack of complete closure of the facial structure of the fetus. It is a birth defect that affects you one baby out of every thousand (in Del Paese this pathology affects about 500 children every year) and in some cases it is associated with other conditions or hereditary genetic syndromes.

In this article

  • Causes
  • Intervention
  • Cleft lip and ultrasound
  • Cleft lip and syndrome
  • The risks
  • Famous people with cleft lip


Why does the cleft lip come? La lipschisi occurs with the non-welding of the three parts that form the upper lip in the embryo: the cleft can be unilateral, or on one side of the lip only, or bilateral, and can occur in different ways, from a small crack on the lip to the complete separation up to the nostril. If the cut continues even in the palate we are talking about cleft lip and palate.

It is estimated that the main cause of cleft lip is genetic and hereditary: 25% of cases of cleft lip are due to genetic causes and above all to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Experts also claim that the cleft lip is caused by one syndrome genetics that can be passed on from either parent to cleft lip is just one of the most obvious manifestations.

However, environmental and risk factors are no less important pregnant that include:

  • radiation exposure,
  • taking certain medications in the first trimester of pregnancy,
  • advanced maternal age,
  • maternal diabetes,
  • obesity,
  • alcohol,
  • smoke.
Read also: Cleft lip, the help group MAMMAaiutaMAMMA is born

Cleft lip and ultrasound

Generally the cleft lip diagnosis it is done at birth, when it is evident that there is a malformation of this type. But in some cases it is possible that the doctor will notice this during ultrasound: if it is difficult, in ultrasound, to notice the malformations of the palate, it may be easier to observe, instead, a lipschisi. In this case, the doctor may prescribe a more thorough prenatal genetic examination and will carefully examine the development of all organs to see if there are any alterations.

Cleft lip and syndrome

In some cases, cleft lip and palate can be the manifestation of rare genetic syndromes such as Pierre Robin syndrome, moreover one third of the patients presents the velo-cardio-faccial syndromeand or DiGeorge syndrome, caused by the loss (deletion) of a portion of chromosome 22.

The risks

Cleft lip babies - with or without cleft palate - face a variety of challenges, depending on the type and severity of the cleft. Possible problems include, therefore:

  • Difficulty feeding: is a major concern from birth: most cleft-lipped babies are able to latch on to breastfeed, but for those who also have a cleft palate, sucking can be very difficult;
  • Dental problems: if the cleft extends through the upper gum, tooth development may be impaired;
  • Difficulty speaking: difficult to be able to form sounds and have normal language development;
  • Pemotional and social problems: Babies with clefts may face social and emotional problems due to their appearance and also due to the stress caused by intensive medical care.

Finally, in the case of cleft lip and palate Ear infections and possible hearing loss are also more frequent: according to research, children with cleft palate have a greater risk of developing middle ear fluid and hearing loss.


Cleft lip can be treated from the first weeks of life, so as not to make sucking, breastfeeding, the ability to feed, but also the development of language problematic. The reconstructive surgery is therefore usually performed within the first six months of life. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia: the surgeon reconstructs the skin and muscles of the lip using the same local tissues, so there is no need to take tissues from other parts of the body.

Surgery can undoubtedly improve the appearance of the child's face and have several benefits to:

  • breathing,
  • hearing,
  • language development.

Babies born with orofacial clefts may also need other types of treatments, such as special dental or orthodontic care (with appliances and bites) or speech therapy.

Famous people with cleft lip

Hollywood's most famous scar is certainly that of the actore Joaquin Phoenix: That distinctive mark on the upper lip is said to be just a mild form of cleft lip that has been treated with surgery. However, he has always said that it is a sign already present at his birth.

Joaquin Phoenix

Fonte: shutterstock


  • Infolabiopalatoschisi
  • Etiology, prenatal diagnosis, obstetrical management, and recurrence of cleft lip and/or palate
  • Facts about Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

  • congenital malformations
  • health and children
  • rare diseases
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