It’s National Infertility Awareness Week, a nationwide campaign that hopes to bring to light many of the problems and frustrations of the infertility community, and educate the public on the topic. Interestingly enough, this goes hand in hand with a new study released that gives a new diagnosis to explain Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s infertility: Asherman’s syndrome.
Frida Kahlo’s work has often focused around themes of anatomy and failed reproduction. Even so, little attention has been paid to Kahlo’s actual struggle with infertility…until now.
Fernando Antelo, a surgical pathologist at the Harbor UCLA medical center, examined Kahlo’s work and background in order to reassess the condition that caused Kahlo’s infertility (and thus, inspired many of her pieces). Antelo concluded that Kahlo had Asherman’s syndrome: a syndrome that seemed to develop when Kahlo was a teen, after a streetcar accident, where a metal handrail penetrated her abdomen, causing severe trauma. Asherman’s syndrome is a condition characterized by the presence of adhesions in the uterine cavity due to scars.
Kahlo experienced several miscarriages in her life and represented her struggles through her work. Antelo points to one 1932 painting, "Henry Ford Hospital," in which Kahlo illustrates her hemorrhaging body lying on a hospital bed with various objects, including a male fetus and a model of the female pelvic bones, attached to her body by umbilical tethers.
We can’t even imagine the devestation that comes with the struggle to get pregnant, especially when we, as a culture, put so much value on family. It’s interesting to note that no previous papers went into depth about Kahlo’s struggle with infertility, at least on a medical level. Antelo hopes his findings will spur women to find out more about the complications associated with medical procedures, including infertility.
To get more information about infertility awareness week, visit resolve.org.