Cleft Palate is a common birth defect in which the roof of the mouth is separated by a gap. It often interferes with speech, feeding, and swallowing, and requires surgical repair. Recent evidence links the maternal use of medications such a Topamax, Topiramate, SSRI antidepressants, and pain medications during pregnancy to an increased risk of cleft palate. Many of these women are now seeking legal action against the drug companies.

Do I Have a Cleft Palate Lawsuit? Collen A. Clark is a true advocate for his clients and is passionate about helping Texans that have been injured or wronged. If you or a loved one has given birth to a child with a birth defect after taking Topamax, Topiramate, an SSRI antidepressant, or other medication during pregnancy, you should contact our lawyers immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a Cleft Palate lawsuit.

Cleft Palate Overview

Cleft Palate is a birth defect affecting the roof of the mouth, and may also include the upper lip (called a “cleft lip”). In a baby with a cleft palate, the two parts of the skull that form the hard part on the roof of the mouth do not fuse together. Cleft palate may also involve the soft palate. A complete cleft palate includes the jaw; an incomplete cleft palate may look more like a hole in the roof of the mouth.

The cleft palate can lead to serious complications, including an abnormal facial appearance, difficulty speaking, ear infections, and dental problems. About one baby in every 2,500 live births has a cleft palate, making it one of the most common birth defects.

Medications linked to Cleft Palate

SSRIs / Antidepressant Drugs:

Pain Medication / Cough Medicine: A new study has found that pregnant women who use some types of pain medication (or cough medicine) are more likely to have babies with birth defects.

These medications include:

  • Oxycontin
  • Oxycodone
  • Codeine
  • Some Cough Medication

Topamax and Topiramate: On March 4, 2011 the FDA required the manufacturers of Topamax and Topiramate to update the safety labeling on the medications to reflect growing evidence linking these drugs to cleft lip, cleft palate, and hypospadias, when women took these medications during pregnancy.

Types of Clefts

Clefts may be unilateral (involving just one side of the face) or bilateral (involving both sides of the face).

50% of babies born with a cleft have both a cleft lip and a cleft palate. About one baby for every 700-1,000 babies are born with both cleft lip and cleft palate. It occurs more frequently in European Americans, Asian Americans, some groups of Native Americans, and males. It is less frequent in African Americans.

Approximatley 25% of babies born with a cleft have only a cleft lip, and 25% have only a cleft palate.

Complications of Cleft Palate

Most of the complications of cleft palate are due to the difficulty the child has with feeding. Infections can also be very painful. Perhaps the most serious complication is that the child will feel “different” and suffer self-esteem issues or harassment from other children when he or she reaches school age. The child may also have challenges in school associated with hearing loss and being taken out of class for speech therapy.

Common complications of cleft palate:

  • Failure to gain weight
  • Feeding problems
  • Flow of milk through nasal passages during feeding
  • Poor growth
  • Repeated ear infections
  • Speech difficulties

What about breastfeeding?

Feeding a baby with cleft palate can be challenging. Very few children with clefts can get the nutrition that they need from breastfeeding alone. Cleft palate often prevents the child from forming the seal that is necessary to create proper suction while breastfeeding. In addition, the cleft may adversely impact the infant’s ability to swallow effectively. For this reason, most mothers are referred to a lactation specialist, who can help teach a woman how to feed a child until it undergoes surgery. Most specialists recommend that the woman buy a hospital-grade breast pump, and feed the child with a bottle. It can be beneficial for the mother and child to use non-nutritive breastfeeding exercises for bonding and help the infant develop the muscles in the mouth and tongue.

Treatment & Prognosis

Cleft palate repair is often done when the child is between nine months and one year old. The surgery involves taking tissue from the roof of the mouth and moving it to cover the soft palate. Sometimes, this surgery must be done in multiple stages as the child grows older.

Most babies heal well, though some may need additional surgeries later in life to improve the appearance of scars. In addition, children with cleft palate may need special dental care to correct the teeth. Hearing problems are also very common complications, so the child will need to be monitored throughout childhood. Often, cleft palate also affects speech development, and the child may benefit from speech therapy.

Long-term prognosis for a child with cleft lip is good, with most children who undergo surgery developing normal speech, language skills, and appearance.

Do I Have a Cleft Palate Lawsuit?

For a free consultation, please contact Collen A. Clark at The Clark Firm, LLP immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a Cleft Palate lawsuit.

Collen’s amazing success in the courtroom and well known dedication to his clients has earned him the recognition of his peers as one of The Top Trial Lawyers in Texas.”

The Clark Firm has assembled a team of trial lawyers with more that 100 years experience, participation in over 600 jury trials and $60 million in verdicts and/or settlements. Please use the form below to contact us for a free Cleft Palate birth defect lawsuit review.