Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who died in 1954 at age 47, created many paintings inspired by anatomy—particularly her own.
Having contracted polio at age 6 and, at 18, endured a horrific streetcar accident in which her body was pierced by a metal handrail, Kahlo’s life was marked by neurological problems, chronic pain and other ills, among them infertility. Now a physician has linked Kahlo’s infertility to that accident.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association of
Anatomists at the Experimental Biology 2012 conference in San Diego, Fernando Antelo, a surgical pathologist at the Harbor UCLA Medical Center, noted Sunday that though more than a dozen studies about Kahlo’s health have been published in the medical literature, none specifically have addressed her infertility.
Having reviewed Kahlo’s medical history and gleaned insights from her paintings, Antelo speculates that Kahlo’s inability to bear children was caused by a condition now known as Asherman syndrome. Antelo suggests that condition was brought on by the streetcar accident, in which several of Kahlo’s internal organs, including her uterus, were severely damaged. Kahlo experienced several miscarriages and underwent therapeutic abortions, which may, Antelo suggests, have stemmed from the uterine scarring resulting from her traumatic injury.
Asherman’s syndrome involves severe scarring of uterine tissue; thought to be a relatively rare condition, it’s most commonly associated with the uterus-clearing procedure known as “dilatation and curettage.”