Photo: Broken Column by Frida Kahlo
Dr. Fernando Antelo, a surgical pathologist at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, believes he has unlocked the mystery of celebrated Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo’s, infertility. After researching her life as well as her numerous self portraits, the surgeon believes Kahlo suffered from a rare condition called Asherman’s Syndrome.
This rare syndrome occurs when the endometrium, or lining of the uterus, becomes damaged and scar tissue appears. As a result, a woman will undergo repeated ‘D & C’, or Dilatation and Curettage, procedures to clear out the scar tissue. In today’s world of modern medicine a condition such as this can be treated with the use of an internal camera which guides doctors to the scar tissue needed to be removed. Yet in Frida’s time, technology such as this was not available.
During Dr. Antelo’s investigation into Kahlo’s repeated miscarriages and therapeutic abortions, he found the artist’s self portraits provided him with an honest portrayal of not only her emotions at the time, but also her medical symptoms. Using the piece, “The Broken Column,” Dr. Antelo felt like he was having a conversation with not only a patient but also a colleague.
The self portrait, painted after the artist underwent spinal surgery depicts her encased in a body brace. Nails are piercing her face as tears stream down her cheeks. Her flesh is missing from her neck, chest and abdomen allowing the viewer to see her broken spinal column.
It is believed that Kahlo had an interest in medicine and even planned on attending medical school. Yet, after her horrific streetcar accident as a teenager, many of her future plans vanished. Bedridden for many months afterwards in an attempt to heal her numerous wounds, Dr. Antelo believes that her uterus, punctured by a metal handrail in the accident, never recovered and thus the Asherman’s Syndrome began, which also dashed any hopes of Frida’s for becoming a mother. Kahlo died at the young age of 47 in 1954.
Antelo states to MSNBC, “She kept attempting to have children with a uterus that wasn’t in any condition to do that. There could be other contributing factors, but in my mind, this has got to be a key thing. We have a major injury to the uterus.”
Dr. Antelo presented his investigation’s conclusion recently at the American Association of Anatomists in San Diego. Antelo also noted in his report, that although many historians have discussed possible reasons for the artist’s infertility, none have connected it to the streetcar accident.