The round ligament is a rope-like band of connective tissue. Two round ligaments support the uterus. During pregnancy, the round ligaments stretch as the uterus grows. Other conditions, including endometriosis and varicose veins, can also affect the round ligaments.
The round ligaments are rope-like bands of connective tissue that support the uterus (womb). The scientific term for this round ligament is the gubernaculum.
There are two round ligaments of the uterus, one on either side. Each is about 4 inches (10 centimeters) long.
When people refer to “round ligaments,” they generally mean round ligaments of the uterus. Another round ligament, the round ligament of the liver, is what remains of the umbilical vein. This blood vessel carries blood from the placenta to the fetus in the womb. In adults, it doesn’t have a function.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Ligaments are strong bands of fibers interconnected in strong, cordlike ropes. Typically, ligaments attach bones in a joint. In places like the elbow, ankle or knee, strong ligaments make crisscross connections that help stabilize the joint.
Other ligaments, like the round ligament, help support internal organs. Rather than connecting bones to stabilize a joint, the round ligament supports the uterus.
All fetuses begin developing the same way. Later in pregnancy, sex differences appear. Male fetuses do have round ligaments. As the sex organs form, the round ligament in a baby boy moves down into the scrotum (sac outside the body that holds the testicles).
The round ligaments support and anchor the uterus. During pregnancy, the round ligaments stretch. They get wider and longer to support the growing uterus.
There are two round ligaments, one on each side of the uterus. The uterus is a hollow, pear-shaped organ in the pelvis (bowl-shaped area of bone that connects your torso and legs). During pregnancy, a developing baby grows in the uterus. The muscular uterus can expand as the baby grows.
Several structures come off of the top corners of the uterus and briefly run together: the round ligament, the Fallopian tube and the ligament that holds the ovaries close to the uterus. From there, the ligament enters the abdominal wall and travels through groin (in the inguinal canal), and eventually inserts into the labia. This is often why women experience round ligament pain in the groin, or as vaginal tugging.
Several conditions can affect the round ligaments during a woman’s reproductive years. These include:
During pregnancy, the uterus grows and expands to accommodate a developing baby. The uterus starts about the size of an orange. By the end of a pregnancy, it is about the size of a watermelon.
The round ligaments also expand to support the uterus as it gets bigger and heavier throughout pregnancy. As the ligaments stretch to hold up the expanded uterus, you may experience round ligament pain.
During pregnancy, it may help to do gentle stretches of the pelvis and hips. If you experience round ligament pain, stop doing the movement that triggered the pain and rest until it goes away.
You should call your provider or seek emergency care if you experience severe round ligament pain that lasts more than a couple of minutes along with:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The round ligaments help support your uterus. During pregnancy, they stretch and can become painful. Talk to your healthcare provider about how to recognize round ligament pain during pregnancy. They can show you gentle stretches to help keep the round ligaments healthy.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/20/2021.
Learn more about our editorial process.