We have examined unfertilised oocytes and their first polar bodies (PBs) to determine the way in which the frequency of whole chromosome imbalance compares with that involving single chromatids and whether the precocious separation of chromatids prior to anaphase I affects all pairs of chromosomes. We have applied the technique of fluorescent in situ hybridisation in a three-stage method by using locus-specific probes for chromosomes 13 and 21 and alpha-satellite probes for chromosomes 1, 9, 16, 18 and X to determine the chromosome status of oocytes and their PBs. We obtained analysable results from 127 oocytes and 57 PBs from 72 patients of average age 33 years. Six oocytes and three PBs had extra signals but, of these, three were derived from a single patient, aged 26. Anomalies were seen in chromosomes 13, 16, 18, X and, notably, 21 but none were observed in chromosomes 1 and 9. Half of the anomalies involved additional chromatids rather than whole chromosomes. Since particular chromatids were found to be prematurely separated in the metaphase II oocyte, this may provide further evidence for an additional mechanism of maternal aneuploidy that operates at anaphase II. Detailed analyses of both oocytes and PBs have elucidated possible mechanisms leading to aneuploid gametes in this group of patients with fertility problems.