We have used multicolour fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH) with DNA probes for chromosomes X, Y and l to analyse spare untransferred cleavage-stage embryos after preimplantation diagnosis to avoid X-linked disease. In total, 93 morphologically normal embryos were available from seven patients (six of proven fertility) who had undergone fourteen in vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycles. The chromosome patterns observed were classified into four groups; normal, abnormal (non-mosaic), mosaic and chaotic (uncontrolled division). Approximately half of the embryos were normal for the chromosomes tested. Two embryos only were aneuploid (non-mosaic) throughout but, after excluding those showing chaotic division, 30% were considered to be chromosomal mosaics. Of these, a minority had arisen because of mitotic non-disjunction or chromosome loss or gain, whereas the majority were ploidy mosaics, with haploidy being the most common. The occurrence of chaotically dividing embryos was strongly patient-related, i.e. some patients had 'chaotic' embryos in repeated cycles, whereas other patients were completely free of this type of anomaly. 'Chaotic' embryos are unlikely to progress beyond implantation. These findings have important implications both for routine IVF and preimplantation genetic diagnosis.