Many studies have focused on the optimization of the composition of embryo culture medium; however, there are few studies involving the effect of a culture medium changing procedure on the preimplantation development of embryos. In this study, three groups were designed: a non-renewal group, a renewal group and a half-renewal group. The levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), apoptotic index, blastocyst ratio and blastocyst total cell number were analyzed in each group. The results showed that the ROS level and the apoptotic index of blastocyst in the non-renewal group were significantly higher than in the renewal group and the half-renewal group (P < 0.05). The blastocyst ratio and blastocyst total cell number were significantly higher in the half-renewal group than that in non-renewal group and the renewal group (P < 0.05). These results demonstrated that the procedure of changing the culture medium influenced ROS level, apoptotic index, blastocyst ratio and total cell number of blastocysts. In addition, the result suggested that changing the culture medium may lead to a loss of important regulatory factors for embryos, while not changing the culture medium may lead to the accumulation of toxic substances. Half-renewal can alleviate the defects of both no renewal and renewal, and benefit embryo development. This study will be of high value as a reference for the optimization of embryo culture in vitro, and is very significant for assisted reproduction.