When a baby is born with a cleft, it is only natural for parent to want to know why it happened or what was the cause. However, the exact cause of a cleft lip or palate is unknown in many cases. Often, a single cause or factor cannot be identified; in some cases, the cause might be connected to genetics or hereditary.
UI Health's Craniofacial Center provides services delivered by board-certified genetic counselors. These healthcare providers are specially trained in assessing the genetic contribution to various health conditions, including cleft lips and palates. Genetic counselors can help a child's family understand the causes of the birth condition and discuss the potential risks of other family members developing a similar condition.
Genetic counselors also help coordinate more comprehensive evaluations for patients when indicated. If a child has a cleft without other medical problems, a discussion about isolated birth conditions and reoccurring risks is provided. When a patient has multiple birth conditions, health problems, or differences in their development, they may benefit from a more comprehensive genetics consultation by a medical geneticist - a doctor that's trained - genetics, to evaluate for possible an underlying diagnosis or genetic syndrome.
Understanding the cause of the child's birth condition and the risk of it recurring can help prepare the family to make better informed personal and medical decisions.