The human embryo undergoes many changes in physiology during the first 4 days of life as it develops and differentiates from a fertilized oocyte to the blastocyst stage. Concomitantly, the embryo is exposed to gradients of nutrients within the female reproductive tract and exhibits changes in its own nutrient requirements and utilization. Determining the nature of such nutrient gradients in the female tract and the changing requirements of the embryo has facilitated the formulation of stage-specific culture media designed to support embryo development throughout the preimplantation period. Resultant implantation rates attained with the culture and transfer of human blastocysts are higher than those associated with the transfer of cleavage stage embryos to the uterus. Such increases in implantation rates have facilitated the establishment of high pregnancy rates while reducing the number of embryos transferred. With the introduction of new scoring systems for the blastocyst and the non-invasive assessment of metabolic activity of individual embryos, it should be possible to move to single blastocyst transfer for the majority of patients.