For most mothers who delivered babies with cleft lip and cleft palate, it’s a real struggle to accept, bond and care for their newborns. Some of the mothers share their emotional stories as well as their big hope in corrective surgery that will restore their babies’ appearance and health. YUSUFF MOSHOOD reports
One reason most pregnant women look forward to their day of delivery with excitement is because they are eager to meet the babies they’ve carried in their womb for nine months.
This excitement, however, usually quickly turns to disappointment and emotional agony when the baby is delivered and has a cleft lip and/or cleft palate.
Dealing with this disappointment and bonding with the baby is a major struggle for most mothers.
This is a challenge that Mrs. Gift Otore, a mother of four, residing in the Ikorodu area of Lagos, has had to deal with for the past five months.
Narrating her story to our correspondent, Mrs. Otore who delivered a baby boy with a cleft lip five months ago, said it’s been tough facing the challenge of nursing her son, named Success.
Speaking with PUNCH Healthwise in an exclusive interview, Mrs. Otore said, “I was very sad when I first saw Success after giving birth to him. I did not even have the strength to face the challenge of nursing him.
“I delivered normally at F&F Hospital in Ijedodo, Ikorodu, and that’s the same hospital where I had my antenatal. However, when I saw the baby, I was very sad, rather than being happy.
“Even though the doctors told me the problem he has can be corrected, I was still sad and unhappy. It was very tough to accept and it is still tough now to deal with.
“This is my fifth child and the first four don’t have this condition. Although I lost my second child, all my previous children don’t have a cleft, so it is difficult to accept,” she said.
Mrs. Otore, however, thinks her delay in commencing antenatal care could be responsible for her son’s cleft condition.
“I was told this probably happened because I did not start antenatal on time. I started my antenatal when I was seven months pregnant. The reason was that it was not my first, second or third pregnancy. I felt I knew enough about managing my pregnancy, but I now know better.
“I am now receiving treatment for Success at the Oral and Maxillofacial Clinic of Lagos University Teaching Hospital and looking forward to the surgery that has been scheduled for him to correct the problem.
“However, I want a little correction in this paragraph. Please, change it to “Since I gave birth to him, I have been reluctant to take him outside because of his appearance. He was supposed to be dedicated in church but we haven’t done it yet because of the condition. I am just looking forward to having the surgery and hoping it will be successful. I am also grateful to the Smile Train NGO sponsoring the surgery,” she said.
Cleft lip and cleft palate explained
According to a Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at LUTH, Mobolanle Olugbemiga Ogunlewe, while the cause of cleft lip and cleft palate is still not fully understood, studies have shown that the abnormality is caused by an interaction between genetic and environmental factors.
Ogunlewe, a consultant maxillofacial surgeon, explained that while the genetic factors occur as the baby is being formed in the womb, the environmental factors are things the pregnant woman acquired or is exposed to.
“Those things may be the drug she takes, radiation, or infections she is exposed to while pregnant.
“So, a cleft usually occurs when there is an interaction between the genetic and environmental factors, particularly in the first six to seven weeks of pregnancy.
“This is because by the seventh week of pregnancy, the face is already formed and by the ninth week, the roof of the mouth is formed. So, a cleft usually happens in the early period of pregnancy,” she said.
According to Mayo Clinic, cleft lip and cleft palate are openings or splits in the upper lip, the roof of the mouth (palate) or both.
Cleft lip and cleft palate, it says, result when facial structures that are developing in an unborn baby don’t close completely.
Mayo Clinic noted that cleft lip and cleft palate are among the most common birth defects.
“They most commonly occur as isolated birth defects but are also associated with many inherited genetic conditions or syndromes. Having a baby born with a cleft can be upsetting, but the cleft lip and cleft palate can be corrected. In most babies, a series of surgeries can restore normal function and achieve a more normal appearance with minimal scarring,” it said.
Cleft prevalence in Nigeria
According to a 2017 study published online by the Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice, clefts of the lip and/or palate are the most common congenital craniofacial defects and second only to club foot among all congenital anomalies.
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