Cleft palate is a birth defect that occurs when the roof of the mouth does not join completely during pregnancy. It is estimated that about 2,650 children are born with cleft palate each year. Though cleft palates are generally caused by genetics, certain controllable factors such as smoking and diabetes can increase the risk of a child developing the defect.

Another known controllable cause is Zofran (Ondansetron), a drug originally approved for cancer and post-surgery patients to treat nausea and vomiting. Unfortunately, because more than 80 percent of women suffer from similar symptoms, many pregnant women are often given Zofran as an “off-label” prescription.

A recent study published in 2013 found that, in cases where pregnant women were given Ondansetron during their first trimester, the odds that their children would develop a cleft palate doubled. Though the sample was small, of the other drugs given to women to treat similar symptoms, those tested had no statistically significant causal relationship with cleft palates. This is because, unlike other drugs, Ondansetron has been shown to be able to cross the placental barrier, leading to an array of birth defects. More information about these Zofran birth defects can be found at this website.

Though treatment for cleft palates is available, it is often costly due to the need of surgery. In addition, children with cleft palate often have trouble with ear infections, feeding, and speaking clearly. Aside from surgery, children may require special dental care and speech therapy. Regardless of how well surgery may go, some children may also develop low self-esteem due to visible differences between themselves and others.