What Causes Cleft Lip?

What Causes Cleft Lip?


Cleft lip is a congenital birth defect that occurs when the tissues of the upper lip fail to properly fuse together during prenatal development. This results in a separation—or "cleft"—in the lip. A cleft can range from a small notch to a large opening that extends into the nose. 


In addition to a cleft lip, there can also be a cleft palate, which is the roof of the mouth. A cleft palate can affect either the front, back, or both parts of the palate. Cleft lip with a cleft palate is one of the most common birth defects, affecting approximately 1 in every 1,000 newborns. In this article, we’ll explain what causes cleft lip and provide additional information about the condition.


What Causes Cleft Lip?


The exact causes of cleft lip are not fully understood, but it is believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a role. One of the most significant risk factors for cleft lip is a family history of the condition. Children born to parents who have a history of cleft lip are more likely to be born with the condition themselves.


Other factors that have been associated with an increased risk of cleft lip include exposure to certain environmental toxins during pregnancy, such as tobacco or alcohol. Maternal illness—including certain viral infections—can also increase the risk of cleft lip, as can certain genetic disorders, like Down syndrome.


In some cases, cleft lip can be caused by the use of certain medications during pregnancy, especially anti-epileptic medications. Women who take these medications during pregnancy are at a higher risk of having a child with cleft lip.


The formation of cleft lip occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy, when the face and lips are developing. If there is any disruption in the normal development of the face and lips—like a genetic mutation or exposure to environmental toxins—it can result in a cleft lip.


Diagnosis of cleft lip is usually made during pregnancy through ultrasound. The condition can be corrected through surgery after birth. In most cases, children with cleft lip undergo one or more surgeries to repair the cleft and restore normal function and appearance to the lip and nose. In addition to cleft lip surgery, children may also receive speech therapy, orthodontic treatment, and other care to help them overcome any challenges associated with the condition.


Advances in medical technology and research have made it possible to diagnose and treat cleft lip effectively. With proper care, children with cleft lip can lead healthy and fulfilling lives. However, not all children born with the condition have access to the care they need.


The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) continues to provide humanitarian aid and medical relief to children and their families—some of whom are refugees fleeing their home countries—through our pediatric cancer departments, humanitarian aid programs and projects, pediatric mental health initiatives, hospital infrastructure projects, orphan and refugee sponsorships, medical sponsorships, treatment abroad program, and medical missions. These efforts help to ensure that children in need get the vital assistance they require, like cleft lip surgery and associated treatment.


PCRF has a committee of volunteer doctors and specialists on our Medical Advisory Board who are dedicated to building up services through training, programs, and guiding PCRF to improve the quality of pediatric care in Palestine, Lebanon, and other areas in the Middle East.

PCRF is not a political or religious organization. Our mission is to provide medical and humanitarian relief collectively and individually to Arab children throughout the Middle East, regardless of their nationality, politics, or religion. We rely on charitable giving to provide medical treatment, surgeries, safety, shelter, and support to children and their families in Palestine and the Levant. Find out how you can get involved and help make a difference in children’s lives today!