DNA damage is one of the most common insults that challenge all cells. To cope, an elaborate molecular and cellular response has evolved to sense, respond to and correct the damage. This allows the maintenance of DNA fidelity essential for normal cell viability and the prevention of genomic instability that can lead to tumor formation. In the context of oocytes, the impact of DNA damage is not one of tumor formation but of the maintenance of fertility. Mammalian oocytes are particularly vulnerable to DNA damage because physiologically they may lie dormant in the ovary for many years (>40 in humans) until they receive the stimulus to grow and acquire the competence to become fertilized. The implication of this is that in some organisms, such as humans, oocytes face the danger of cumulative genetic damage for decades. Thus, the ability to detect and repair DNA damage is essential to maintain the supply of oocytes necessary for reproduction. Therefore, failure to confront DNA damage in oocytes could cause serious anomalies in the embryo that may be propagated in the form of mutations to the next generation allowing the appearance of hereditary disease. Despite the potential impact of DNA damage on reproductive capacity and genetic fidelity of embryos, the mechanisms available to the oocyte for monitoring and repairing such insults have remained largely unexplored until recently. Here, we review the different aspects of the response to DNA damage in mammalian oocytes. Specifically, we address the oocyte DNA damage response from embryonic life to adulthood and throughout oocyte development.