Mammalian cells have developed complex mechanisms to identify DNA damage and activate the required response to maintain genome integrity. Those mechanisms include DNA damage detection, DNA repair, cell cycle arrest and apoptosis which operate together to protect the conceptus from DNA damage originating either in parental gametes or in the embryo's somatic cells. DNA repair in the newly fertilized preimplantation embryo is believed to rely entirely on the oocyte's machinery (mRNAs and proteins deposited and stored prior to ovulation). DNA repair genes have been shown to be expressed in the early stages of mammalian development. The survival of the embryo necessitates that the oocyte be sufficiently equipped with maternal stored products and that embryonic gene expression commences at the correct time. A Medline based literature search was performed using the keywords 'DNA repair' and 'embryo development' or 'gametogenesis' (publication dates between 1995 and 2006). Mammalian studies which investigated gene expression were selected. Further articles were acquired from the citations in the articles obtained from the preliminary Medline search. This paper reviews mammalian DNA repair from gametogenesis to preimplantation embryos to late gestational stages.