Saving Faces and Making New Smiles

National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month recognized in July

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Pregnant women can play an active role in lowering their baby's risk of being born with health issues. This is being highlighted during the month of July. National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month (NCCAPM) is being recognized in July. 

According to the NCCAPM website, cleft and craniofacial conditions include a variety of conditions stemming from diseases, burns and traumas, as well as birth defects like cleft lip and cleft palate. 

Even though it's still not clear what causes these birth defects, the organizers of this awareness month have highlighted some ways that pregnant mothers can lower their babies' chances of being born with one of these conditions. First, the organizers recommend that pregnant women do not smoke.

"Lower birth defect risks by not smoking while pregnant."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cleft lip and cleft palate develop early in pregnancy and are a result of the baby's lips or mouth not forming correctly. 

In a cleft lip, the tissue forming the lip does not fully join, resulting in an opening in the upper lip. In a cleft palate, an opening is present on the roof of the mouth. 

Children with these conditions, which may occur together, can have trouble with feeding and talking, and may develop dental and hearing issues. The conditions are the most common birth defects in the United States, as the CDC estimates that 2,651 babies are born in the US each year with a cleft palate and 4,437 babies are born with a cleft lip.

The causes behind most cases of these craniofacial birth defects are unknown. According to the CDC, a variety of factors, including genes, environmental exposures, the mother's diet and medications she takes may play a role. 

However, the organization stressed that there are steps moms-to-be can take to lower the odds that their babies will be born with these conditions. The CDC recommends that expectant mothers not smoke or drink and that they take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.

"Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a baby with an orofacial cleft than women who do not smoke," according to the CDC.

The treatment for babies with a cleft or craniofacial condition may be different, but the process is typically started within the first few months of life. 

"These children often face complex medical situations, depending on the severity of the lesion," explained Tracie T. Newman, MD, pediatrician at Sanford Children's Southwest Clinic in Fargo, North Dakota, in an interview with dailyRx News. "Typically, a team of physicians and specialists work together to care for these children."

According to Dr. Newman, this team can include specialists like ear, nose and throat doctors, pediatricians, pediatric dentists, oral surgeons, plastic surgeons, neurosurgeons and speech therapists. 

Though the process can be complex, the CDC noted, "With treatment, most children with orofacial clefts do well and lead a healthy life."

The awareness month is being organized by a partnership of organizations across the country. It is observed every year in July.

Review Date: 
July 17, 2013
Last Updated:
August 14, 2013