NH DHHS - Programs Address Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate for National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month

Concord, NH – July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and

Prevention Month and a number of NH Department of Health and Human Services

(DHHS) programs are helping to prevent cleft lip and cleft palate in New

Hampshire babies. Among the services these programs provide are:

customized, free help quitting tobacco (1-800-QUIT-NOW); free texts on how

to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby through Text4Baby; prenatal

services through NH Medicaid ( NHEasy.NH.gov ); and nutrition education and

nutritious foods to help keep pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and

preschool children healthy and strong through NH WIC services.



On average, there are 12,000 babies born in New Hampshire each year, 8.34%

of whom are born with a cleft lip and 7.82% with a cleft palate. Orofacial

clefts happen early during pregnancy. A baby can have a cleft lip, a cleft

palate, or both. Babies born with these birth defects have problems with

feeding, hearing, and speech development; dental problems, including

missing teeth; and frequent middle ear infections. Correction of cleft

defects requires surgery. Some factors that increase the chance of having a

baby with an orofacial cleft are maternal smoking, having diabetes, and use

of certain medications to treat epilepsy, such as topirimate and valproic

acid.



“DHHS has a number of programs working toward reducing these birth defects

by addressing these risk factors,” said Marcella Bobinsky, Acting Director

of Public Health at DHHS. “Because birth defects can develop before a woman

even knows she is pregnant, it is important that she takes care of her

health from the start. Addressing health risk behaviors even before

pregnancy is important, such as taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every

day and quitting smoking to reduce the risk of poor birth outcomes.”



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that:

· Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a baby with

an orofacial cleft than women who do not smoke,

· Women with diabetes diagnosed before pregnancy have an increased risk

of having a child with a cleft lip with or without cleft palate,

compared with women who did not have diabetes, and

· Women who used certain medicines to treat epilepsy, during the first

trimester (the first 3 months) of pregnancy have an increased risk of

having a baby with cleft lip with or without cleft palate, compared

with women who didn’t take these medicines.



For information on the NH Birth Conditions Program visit www.nhbcp.org.

Resources for women, infants, and children and the many programs of DHHS,

such as the Diabetes Education Program, the Maternal and Child Health

Program, NH WIC, Text4Baby, and the Oral Health Program, can be found at

www.dhhs.nh.gov . DHHS currently offers free help quitting tobacco use

through 1-800-QUIT-NOW (www.TryToStopNH.org ).