The word “cleft” is a derivation of the word “cleave” which means to divide. Cleft, therefore, means a space or opening where one should not exist. “Palate” refers to the horizontal structure separating the mouth and the nasal cavity. In very straightforward terms, the palate is the roof of the mouth.
A cleft palate is thus a fissure, present at birth, in the roof of the mouth forming an abnormal opening between the mouth and nasal cavities. Cleft palates may be unilateral or bilateral and complete or incomplete. They can occur in the hard palate, which is the bony front portion of the roof of the mouth, and/or in the soft palate, which is the soft back portion of the roof of the mouth.
Cleft palates are malformations that originate in the very early stage of pregnancy. During this critical stage in fetal development, the two sides of the palate do not properly grow and join together.
Several scientific studies now strongly implicate Zofran (ondansetron), when taken during the mother’s first trimester, as a cause of cleft palate birth defects.