infant smiling after cleft lip surgery

Cleft Lip Ultrasound

An ultrasound gives you the first wonderful glimpse of your growing baby. It can also show whether your child has any birth defects such as a cleft lip. While there isn't a special cleft lip ultrasound to detect this specific trait, a routine ultrasound can detect most (but not all) cases as early as 13 weeks into a pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic. Finding out if your child has a cleft lip during pregnancy can be stressful. But it also allows you to start making important decisions that will affect your baby's overall oral health and precious little smile. Here's what you should know.

What is a Cleft Lip?

A cleft lip describes a lip with an opening from the upper lip to one or both nostrils. It happens in roughly one out of every 700 live births with about 80 percent occurring in males, according to the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Depending on how severe the cleft is, feeding difficulties can arise which will require some extra help from a lactation consultant or special bottle feeding positioning to make sure your baby is well fed.

Getting a Diagnosis

If your doctor finds a cleft lip in your baby's ultrasound, amniocentesis may be your next step for diagnosis. As the Mayo Clinic describes, a doctor takes a sample of the amniotic fluid and it's then tested to discover whether your baby has inherited a genetic syndrome that causes a cleft lip. However, sometimes the cause is unknown, so don't be alarmed. Other factors, such as diabetes, certain medications and smoking can increase your unborn baby's cleft lip chances, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Your doctor may also refer you to another specialist for further ultrasounds and diagnosis.

Cleft Lip Surgery

A cleft lip is repaired often during the child's first year, and acccording to Boston Children's Hospital, your child will receive general anesthesia to alleviate pain while doctors work to close the cleft lip. While surgery for such a small child may initially sound scary, the benefits your child will experience — ability to eat, breath and speak, an improved appearance and overall quality of life — far outweigh any fears. An ultrasound diagnosis helps you get a jump start on talking to specialists, getting comfortable with surgeons and doctors and scheduling procedures. It will be easier to talk to other family members and caregivers about what to expect the sooner you know the issue. You also can start preparing for and learning about some of the presurgical tasks like lip taping as described by the University of Missouri Children's Hospital. Once a child has healed, keeping up oral hygiene and preventing cavities with products like Colgate® My First® Fluoride-Free Toothpaste is vital for lasting health.

Thanks to modern technology, you can find if your child has a cleft lip during your pregnancy. A specific cleft lip ultrasound isn't necessary, as it can most often be spotted during your routine ultrasound after 13 weeks. It's always helpful to learn this early on so you can prepare in every way possible before you hold your bundle of joy.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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