To examine the effects of maternal ageing on the meiotic apparatus, we obtained oocytes from naturally cycling women in two age groups, including younger (aged 20-25 years) and older (aged 40-45 years) women. Using high-resolution confocal microscopy we obtained a detailed picture of the meiotic spindle and chromosome placement during various phases of meiosis. Our data revealed that the meiotic spindle in older women is frequently abnormal, both with regard to chromosome alignment and the microtubule matrix that comprise the meiotic spindle. The spindle in 79% of the oocytes from the older group exhibited abnormal tubulin placement and one or more chromosomes were displaced from the metaphase plate during the second meiotic division. In contrast, only 17% of the oocytes from the younger age group exhibited aneuploid conditions. The majority of eggs from this group possessed a well ordered, meiotic spindle containing chromosomes that were fully aligned within a distinct metaphase plate in the spindle. Chromosome management during meiosis is directed by microtubule assembly within the spindle. These data suggest that the regulatory mechanisms responsible for assembly of the meiotic spindle are significantly altered in older women, leading to the high prevalence of aneuploidy.