In ischaemic tissues, reperfusion induces acute injury and functional changes. In this work, ovaries were stored for various times, and superoxide dismutase (SOD) and dimethylthiourea (DTMU) were used at the time of oocyte aspiration. We then attempted to determine whether free oxygen radicals are generated at oocyte aspiration and whether they impair the developmental competence of oocytes. Over 2 mM of DMTU and 1000 U/ml of SOD significantly improved the rate of blastulation 8 days after insemination. For ovaries that were preserved for 3 and 7 h, using antioxidants also significantly improved the rate of blastulation 8 days after insemination. However, no effect was observed on oocytes from ovaries preserved for 1 h. We examined how the antioxidants affected the presence of germinal vesicles, chromatin configuration, and polar body extrusion 6 or 21 h after culture. Chromatin configuration was classified into three groups according to the amount of chromatin condensation (group 1, strong condensation; group 2, moderate; group 3, slight). Storing ovaries for a long time decreased the frequency of occurrence of group 2, but increased groups 1 and 3. However, using antioxidants at oocyte aspiration decreased the frequency of group 3 and increased group 1. Moreover, there was no difference in the rate of germinal vesicle breakdown and polar body extrusion. Our results show that preserving ovaries for a long time induces the generation of free oxygen radicals and that these chemicals impair oocyte viability. Using antioxidants at oocyte aspiration was beneficial for embryo production.