The Causes of Cleft Lip and/or Palate

The Causes of Cleft Lip and/or Palate

Home > Craniofacial Conditions > Cleft Lip and/or PalateCauses

What causes Cleft Lip and/or Palate?

The exact cause of cleft lip and palate is unknown, but nonsyndromic cases of cleft lip/palate may be due to either genetic or environmental factors.

Is Cleft Lip and/or Cleft Palate Genetic? 

Over 30 gene mutations have been identified as being linked to cleft lip and palate, and parents with a family history of clefts have a higher risk of having a child with a cleft:

  • If neither parent has a cleft lip/palate, the likelihood of having a child with cleft lip and/or palate is approximately 1 in 1,000. 
  • If one parent has a cleft lip/palate, the likelihood of having a child with cleft lip/palate is estimated to be 5%. 

A genetic counselor may be able to provide an assessment of the risk of having a child, or a second child, with cleft lip and/or palate.

Are there environmental factors associated with cleft lip and/or palate?

There are also many environmental factors that have been associated with increased risk of cleft lip and palate, including:

  • Exposure to various drugs (anti-seizure medications, ondansetron, diazepam, nitrofurantoin, corticosteroids, methotrexate) during pregnancy
  • Maternal tobacco or alcohol use
  • Maternal folate deficiency during pregnancy
  • Maternal obesity
  • Amniotic band sequence
  • Maternal diabetes

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