Cleft lip and cleft palate in babies may be caused due to various reasons but the most important ones are the genes from the parents and the environment in which the pregnant mom is.
Cleft: WebMD defines cleft as facial and oral malformation that occurs very early in pregnancy, while the baby is developing inside the mother.
This is the reason why taking the right vaccinations at the right age is important. Also important is taking folic acid supplements well in advance, even before a woman actually gets pregnant. It is advisable for a woman to start her folic acid supplements at least 2 or 3 months before planning a pregnancy. If the pregnancy is unplanned, it is better to start taking folic acid supplements as soon as the woman becomes aware of the pregnancy. These folic acid supplements do not have any bad side effects. In fact, they are very good for the mother’s brain development and personally, I found them good for my hair growth as well. So, my number one advice to all married women who may get pregnant – PLEASE TAKE YOUT FOLIC ACID SUPPLEMENTS!
‘Go Folic before you frolic’
Now, getting back to the topic of Cleft in babies. I have witnessed, a few babies who had a cleft lip, innocently waiting in line at the hospital while their parents look worried and upset. I remember seeing a baby who had a cleft lip when I was probably in 10th standard. I asked my personal google about it – my DAD and he answered my questions to the best of his knowledge and that’s when I knew that cleft was treatable with surgery.
After a few years, when the real Google was famous I remember looking it up one day and how surgery helps but there may be scarring. I also learned how speech therapy may be needed for these babies too. The surgeries like Palatoplasty, bone grafting, flap surgery were all making me visualize the pain these babies may go through to correct their cleft palate or cleft lip. How hard it would be for their parents to see their babies, hold them through the treatment and all the mental pressure they would be in. And the cost of treatment is yet another topic of discussion.
Anamaya is a multicenter cleft prevention program in India in association with the International Cleft Prevention Foundation. The project ANAMAYA constitutes a team of dedicated professionals – Maxillofacial Surgeons, Plastic Surgeons, Pediatricians, Orthodontists, Gynecologists, Geneticists, Oral Pathologists, Epidemiologists and Speech Therapist. Their goals include diagnosing certain birth defects prenatally and to bring out many advances in treating birth defects before the babies are born. It includes vaccinations against diseases like rubella and education on the ill effects due to use of tobacco and alcohol during pregnancy or when trying to conceive. Implement food fortification strategies for the prevention of birth defects.
The four priority areas that Anamayas on, concentrate for birth defects prevention are
- Prevention of Folate deficiency
- Prevention of Congenital heart defects
- Alcohol-exposed pregnancy.
- Enhancing newborn screening data and programmes.
Photo credit: Anamaya Indo Pacific.
Click here to know more about Anamaya Indo Pacific or register to volunteer with them.
One may volunteer to be a Volunteer Leader who speaks about the mission, help raise funds, and spread awareness. Or if you are a student, then you can be part of their TEAM YOUTH. Team youth is an opportunity for students from elementary to college to help Anamaya put a smile and change the life of newborn babies. You can help by spreading the word to your peers on the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Lead your school, organization, or a community in raising awareness and funds for the mission. Or you may also choose to simply donate funds to their causes, however much you possibly can. They also conduct various events across many places to create more awareness about cleft in babies and the importance of folic acid supplements during the pregnancy.
Click here to check out their events at their FB page or for quick information on what they do.