Abstract Previous studies have established that ethanol induces apoptosis, but the precise molecular mechanisms are currently unclear. Here, we show that 0.3–1.0% (w/v) ethanol induces apoptosis in mouse blastocysts and that resveratrol, a grape-derived phytoalexin with known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, prevents ethanol-induced apoptosis and inhibition of cell proliferation. Moreover, ethanol-treated blastocysts show normal levels of implantation on culture dishes in vitro but a reduced ability to reach the later stages of embryonic development. Pretreatment with resveratrol prevented ethanol-induced disruption of embryonic development in vitro and in vivo. In an in vitro cell-based assay, we further found that ethanol increases the production of reactive oxygen species in ESC-B5 embryonic stem cells, leading to an increase in the intracellular concentrations of cytoplasmic free Ca 2+ and NO, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, mitochondrial release of cytochrome c, activation of caspase-9 and -3, and apoptosis. These changes were blocked by pretreatment with resveratrol. Based on these results, we propose a model for the protective effect of resveratrol on ethanol-induced cell injury in blastocysts and ESC-B5 cells.