On an average, one in every 700 children worldwide is born with a cleft. It is the fourth most common birth defect, and the first most common facial birth defect.
Ceft baby born to a cleft afflicted mother
Drug usage without medical advice
Genetic factors: Sometimes a cleft can be genetic. The risk may be higher for children whose sibling(s) or parents have a cleft or who have a history of cleft in their families. Consanguineous marriage (marriage between close relatives or cousins) can also be a cause.
Environmental factors: Not all birth deformities are hereditary. Even in the absence of any genetic factors, there are some external factors that may result in cleft formation.
- Maternal exposure to smoking, use of tobacco, illicit drugs or alcohol consumption during pregnancy is extremely harmful for the developing baby.
- Certain medications like steroids and others as those prescribed for Seizures, Cancer, Arthritis, Tuberculosis etc have been linked to the development of a cleft. Harmful medications and erratic dosages taken without consulting a doctor may have detrimental effects on the foetus. Women taking oral contraceptive pills unaware of their pregnancy may also contribute to clefting.
- Studies have shown cleft is also related to advanced maternal age and also to some hormone deficiencies and dietary deficiencies namely that of folic acid, iron, iodine and zinc.
- Cleft lip and cleft palate may also occur as a result of exposure to viruses or infectious diseases like measles while the fetus is developing in the womb.
- Exposure to certain harmful chemicals, vapours, pesticides, gunpowder fumes, nuclear radiation, X-rays, gamma rays or dangerous reagents like in industrial workplaces have dangerous effects on the genetic composition and growth of the developing baby.